June 19, 2013

James Gandolfini (1961-2013)

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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Whatever may have happened in that New Jersey diner after the sudden, famous cut to black, we now sadly know how The Sopranos ends:  James Gandolfini, forever a part of television history as Tony Soprano, has reportedly died in Italy at age 51 of an apparent heart attack.  Gandolfini won 3 Best Actor Emmys for his signature role (and was nominated in each of the other 3 seasons the show was on the air), as well as a Golden Globe, SAG awards and many others.  He wasn’t HBO’s first choice for the show (the network wanted John C. Reilly), but once he had it, he and David Chase changed the face not just of their medium, but of popular culture in general, with a protagonist who didn’t look, or act, like any other dramatic television star.

Before The Sopranos, Gandolfini was a solid character actor, usually playing tough guys in movies like True Romance and Crimson Tide, but sometimes getting a chance to show surprising quirks and depth of character, notably in A Civil Action and The Mexican.  He also starred on Broadway in the Tony-Award winning God of Carnage.  Recently he’d played an assortment of colorful supporting roles, voicing one of the monsters in Where the Wild Things Are, re-teaming with Chase on last year’s Not Fade Away, and turning in a pair of strong performances as men concerned with the lives of troubled young women in the indies Welcome to the Rileys and Violet and Daisy.  Gandolfini has an upcoming comedy by Nicole Holofcener awaiting release, and he had just had a new limited series project picked up at HBO.

Our collective Ba-Da-Bing will never be the same.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."