It’s with sad news that Commercial Break reports the death of renowned actor James Gandolfini. He was 51 and passed away earlier today from a heart attack while vacationing with family in Italy.
Gandolfini, though having made a name for himself in recent years by starring in big films such as Zero Dark Thirty, Welcome to the Rileys, and Killing Them Softly, was most known for his role as abusive and greedy mob boss, Tony Soprano on David Chase’s The Sopranos. Gandolfini garnered three Emmy awards for that role and most recently was nominated for a Golden Globe in his work in HBO’s film Cinema Verite, co-starring currently-hot-with-Man of Steel Diane Lane and Tim Robbins.
This is, undoubtedly, a great loss for the Hollywood community, but moreover, for the television industry. The Sopranos is revered as a transformational show in television history, and may praise it for its true-to-life and gritty depiction of Italian American and New Jersey life. In particular, the episode in which mob guy girlfriend Adriana LaCerva, played by Drea de Matteo, was unexpectedly “whacked” and the divisive series finale in which the screen cuts to black during the middle of a family dinner at a local diner repeatedly are referred to in pop culture.
I myself had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Gandolfini on several occassions. I grew up in the town of Belleville, N.J., where they often filmed scenes for the show, especially wake scenes after the passing of one of the show’s numerous characters. On every occasion, he was pleasant and inviting. You knew immediately how incredible of an actor he was from the moment he opened his mouth and you came to the realization that he was nothing like the character he played. He wasn’t even as bulky and obese as the camera made him look! His work leaves a legacy for future generations. He is forever embedded in Italian American and New Jersey history and culture. May he rest in peace…