The acting world was stunned to learn today that James Gandolfini has died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 51 in Italy. Mr. Gandolfini portrayed the now iconic Tony Soprano in the game-changing HBO series The Sopranos.
People first took notice of him as the menacing henchman in True Romance. He worked with director Tony Scott again in 1995’sCrimson Tide, while also scoring a role in the star-studded Get Shorty that same year.
But then came Tony Soprano and television was changed forever. I recently went through the entire series for a second time and was mesmerized at every episode, the palpable chemistry that Gandolfini could have in one episode with his wife, his therapist, his children, his mistress, and any one of a few dozen associates. All played to varying degrees of passion and familiarity, but Gandolfini always new how to tow that line.
Also very much worth noting is James Gandolfini’s prolific and life-saving charity work that he has done with several foundations including the African Rainforest Conservancy, the TJ Martell Foundation (cancer and AIDS research), and was especially active in the Wounded Warrior project which promotes aid for wounded soldiers, even producing and starring in a documentary of interviews with wounded veterans called ‘Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq.’
Mr. Gandolfini leaves behind wife Deborah Lin and their child who was born in October of 2012. He also has a teenage son from a previous marriage.
Though he mostly played sociopaths, and even though he helped change how television is made, Gandolfini had a reputation for being an extremely nice man, as evidenced by his charity work. I applaud someone who uses their money and influence to raise awareness for tough issues that others would rather ignore.
The fact that he wasn’t done with acting or charity and could have done so much more makes me profoundly sad. I don’t really see a silver lining here at all. We not only lost an incredible actor, but an even better human being. RIP.