Fortunately, it’s not too often that we are forced to bid a premature farewell to a beloved and respected performer, and the sudden passing of actor James Gandolfini in Italy on Wednesday has left many feeling the goodbye has come much too soon.
At 51, the New Jersey native had barely begun to enjoy his time in the spotlight. Gandolfini, who rocketed to international fame as the turbulent and tempestuous Tony Soprano in the HBO series “The Sopranos,” didn’t get his start in acting until age 37. Once on the stage, though, the perpetually sad-eyed performer quickly found a niche in the tough-guy business.
A surfeit of gritty streetwise performances has led many critics to reflect on a career marked by those forlorn eyes and Gandolfini’s ability to let his rage boil to the surface for his audiences, but even a cursory review of his work reveals far more range than his stint as the Soprano patriarch would suggest. In truth, “The Sopranos” largely overshadowed the Emmy Award-winning actor’s other roles, including a recent heartfelt performance as a brooding middle-class father in David Chase’s “Not Fade Away” and as the voice of Carol in Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are.”
Upon his passing, former HBO president Chris Albrecht described Gandolfini as “… a great talent, but an even better man,” which are kind words considering the pair’s past tangles over the actor’s salary for starring in the mob series. What many people may have forgotten, though, is that Gandolfini shared his eventual contract negotiation success with a dozen other fellow performers, doling out $500,000 of his own money as a gesture of appreciation and respect for what he believed to be a brilliant ensemble cast.
For many, that was the real face of James Gandolfini: the son of a bricklayer and a school cafeteria server who never lost a feel for what it meant to be a real person, rather than just another celebrity lost in stardom’s vapid vacuum. And, while he will be missed as a convincing and reliable onscreen bad guy, he will be missed even more as one of the good guys in show business.
<a title="ATG Stores Homepage" href="http://www.atgstores.com/" target="_blank">ATGStores.com</a> wishes you and all who knew you well, Mr. Gandolfini, and thanks you for 14 years of riveting performances on the stage and screen. Your most well-regarded performance may have ended with a cut to black, but your life will be remembered in Technicolor.