James Gandolfini: 1961-2013

ImageThis is one TMZ report (repeated, elsewhere) that I hope is bogus.

James Gandolfini has died of a heart attack in Italy at the age of 51.

I just talked with the guy over Christmas. Pleasant, enjoying life, working. A LOT. He based his character in “Not Fade Away” on his own dad. “You look like you just got offa the BOAT!’ I heard that from my parents, growing up.”

“I remember when I realized my dad was a man, like other men,” Gandolfini said. “He had dreams. He had a life that was completely separate from his family. As a son, if you see and feel that, your relationship with your father gets better. You realize that he’s not just stopping you from some dream of yours. He’s showing you that you have responsibilities …

“So this guy, like my dad, was saying, ‘Get as much of the other stuff in as you can, but life isn’t always going to be that way.’ That makes you appreciate that this guy gave up stuff for you … It’s a pretty big moment in a son’s life, I think.”

Gandolfini paused thoughtfully, remembering James Joseph Gandolfini Sr., a brick mason from Borgotaro, Italy. “He talked about ‘The War’ late in life … There was so much I didn’t know. You can have a vision of your father, but it can never be complete. He’s not just the guy who drove me around when I was a kid, and yelled at me for not doing yard work.

“That’s something I owed to my father, and it was my way of playing him.”

He dismissed talk of “technique” and preparation, declared his devotion to David Chase and marveled how he’d continued to find work — “Zero Dark Thirty,” film after film.

And now “The Sopranos” star is dead? Hard to get one’s mind around.

He was in “Violet & Daisy,” which opened mere weeks ago.”The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” just before that. He dressed up the terrific “In the Loop,” and couldn’t save “Where the Wild Things Are.” “Welcome to the Rileys,” all those indie films, all that work in the works. And gone? Seems impossible.

Remembered for “The Sopranos” but great in films like “Killing Them Softly,” “8mm” etc. A wonderful actor, and at 51, gone too soon.

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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