I first saw Mr. Gandolfini on the screen in 1995, when he played a trouble-making Navy lieutenant in Crimson Tide, across from Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman. Pretty minor role, but he played it superbly. An even better one was as Colonel Winter, the warden in a military prison, playing across from Robert Redford in “The Last Castle.”
For those of you who never watched, “The Sopranos” was a behind-the-scenes show about the inner workings of a small Mafia family, and Tony was the Capo. But it didn’t just show the shooting and bribes and beatings (although those were plentiful). It went further than that, even as far as showing Tony’s life with his family, trying to be like any other dad, while being the head of a violent, almost totally criminal cartel. And James humanized the character. He brought you the troubles, the heartaches, and the genuine caring that even the most bloodthirsty of men can occasionally show. Even when you were pondering what an animal this guy was, you couldn’t help but indeed like, and indeed, admire him.
That was the magic that was James Joseph Gandolfini, Jr.
I actually never watched the show while it was on. For one reason or another, I just never tuned it in. Then, one Sunday, I was channel cruising and happened upon a rerun.
Oh. My. God. Are you kidding me, I thought. Within 10 minutes I was hooked. And I was pissed. I also stayed pissed, until one day I discovered that our cable provider was running all the episodes again on demand, from start to finish.
I watched each and every one. Twice. Any one who has the opportunity, you should too. It’s menacing, sometimes violent and bloody, and every second is superb.
It’s not the intent of this to go into all his movie roles and awards, and how he started life. Those are all available in plenty online. What I will say is that the world in general lost a splendid person, and the world of entertainment is now lacking a genius actor. And, most tragically, his family now mourns the loss of a husband and father who, judging by all accounts, was perfect in most ways.
Godspeed, James. You are mourned, Sir.