James Gandolfini, the Emmy Award-winning actor who shot to fame on the HBO drama “The Sopranos” as Tony Soprano, a tough-talking, hard-living crime boss with a stolid exterior but a rich interior life, died on Wednesday. He was 51.
The success of “The Sopranos” helped make HBO a dominant player in the competitive field of scripted television programming and transformed Mr. Gandolfini from a character actor into a star. The series, created by David Chase, won two Emmys for outstanding drama series, and Mr. Gandolfini won three Emmys for outstanding lead actor in a drama. He was nominated six times for the award.
HBO said of Mr. Gandolfini in a statement on Wednesday, “He was a special man, a great talent, but more importantly, a gentle and loving person who treated everyone no matter their title or position with equal respect.”
James Joseph Gandolfini Jr. was born in Westwood, N.J., on Sept. 18, 1961. His father was an Italian immigrant who held a number of jobs, including janitor, bricklayer and mason. His mother, Santa, was a high school cafeteria chef.
He attended Park Ridge High School and Rutgers University, graduating in 1983 with a degree in communications. He drove a delivery truck, managed nightclubs and tended bar in Manhattan before becoming interested in acting at age 25, when a friend took him to an acting class.
Obit Associated Press by Lynn Elber
James Gandolfini’s lumbering, brutish mob boss with the tortured psyche will endure as one of TV’s indelible characters.
Dr. Claudio Modini, head of the emergency room at the Policlinic Umberto I hospital in Rome, said Gandolfini suffered a cardiac arrest. He arrived at the hospital at 10:40 p.m. Wednesday and was pronounced dead at 11 p.m. after resuscitation efforts in the ambulance and hospital failed, Modini said.
Gandolfini and his wife, Deborah, who were married in 2008, have a daughter, Liliana, born last year, HBO said. The actor and his former wife, Marcy, have a teenage son, Michael.
While Tony Soprano was a larger-than-life figure, Gandolfini was exceptionally modest and obsessive — he described himself as ‘‘a 260-pound Woody Allen.’’
Director Tony Scott, who killed himself in August 2012, had praised Gandolfini’s talent for fusing violence with charisma — which he would perfect in Tony Soprano…. ‘‘a unique combination of charming and dangerous.’’
“One of the greatest actors of this or any time,” and, “A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes.” He added: “I remember telling him many times: ‘You don’t get it. You’re like Mozart.’ There would be silence at the other end of the phone.”
Chase said Gandolfini brought a much more darker edge to Tony than anyone else, a harder character than Chase had envisioned in the pilot, "what got to James about The Sopranos was the cruelty in Tony's role, the sadism and the beastliness".
People think Gandolfini explored and exposed the moral ambiguity within Tony Soprano. But in fact, he explored and exposed the moral ambiguity within us.
There is nothing ambiguous about Tony Soprano. He is a murderer. A thug. He betrays, in countless ways, the love and trust of those closest to him.
And yet we like him.
Chase’s script for “Sopranos” famously bounced around Hollywood in development for years before landing at HBO. But it took an actor of Gandolfini’s talent to breathe life into his character, particularly in the scenes depicting his one-on-one therapy sessions with the counselor Jennifer Melfi played by Lorraine Bracco.
“If you took the Melfi scenes away, you wouldn’t care about this man as much, or care about anything that was happening to him,” Gandolfini told Vanity Fair.
Stars react to sudden death of James Gandolfini. Nothing shocks Hollywood like a beloved star dying too youngPosted by Jill Fallon at June 20, 2013 9:45 AM | Permalink