On June 19, 2013, Hollywood lost one of it’s finest. James Gandolfini passed away while on vacation in Italy. The words and emotions displayed by Gandolfini’s fellow actors, colleagues, family and friends show how much he was loved, respected and admired. James Gandolfini was born in Westwood, New Jersey and began acting in New York theater. Gandolfini’s first big movie role was in the gangster film True Romance as Virgil The Hitman. Despite appearing in countless films, Gandolfini will best be remembered as the lovable star of HBO’s critically acclaimed hit television series, The Sopranos. The Sopranos aired from 1999-2007, and many critics call it the greatest television series of all time. Gandolfini through his charisma and charm, was able to portray mobster Tony Soprano on the show in such a way that audiences had no choice but to actually find themselves cheering for and sympathizing with the character.
I spoke with some of Gandolfini’s colleagues and friends and this is what they remember about working with him and the pleasure of knowing him.
AJ Benza: “Here’s my Gandolfini story. God help me, Jimmy, if I’m clumsy. I wanted to read for Soprano’s, but at the time I was too well-known as the host of Mysteries & Scandals. Jimmy told me, “Lemme see what I can do.” One week later, David Chase’s office called and asked if they could use footage of me (doing my Lana Turner episode) as Tony Soprano watched my show while sitting in his Jersey house eating cereal while arguing with his TV sister. I was overwhelmed. Jimmy called and said, “Best I could do, pal.” It sure was. I was on The Soprano’s and I felt bigger than life. R.I.P., pal.”
“I met Gandolfini on the set of The Sopranos and we became friends, he always got a big kick out of me and I was always making him laugh. One time a woman I know got a hold of some real Cuban cigars and I gave some to him and he loved that. I used to see him ride his scooter around the city and he would jokingly say what do you follow me? It was a pleasure to work with him.”
“When I was first cast for The Sopranos, my first time on the set, Gandolfini came over and welcomed me aboard and he said to me are you Lilo Brancato’s cousin who he worked with previously, you look just like him. Funny, we laughed, he was always a gentleman. When I was doing a scene in an episode of The Sopranos, a bunch of us were sitting around a table and Steve Buscemi was directing it, it’s the one where Tony beats up a muscle guy, I kept moving and trying to get in the shot and seen as much as possible and Buscemi said you know how to find the camera, James said good good, keep finding it, James was always about the cast around him, he wanted everyone to benefit from the show. He was a very unselfish guy and actor, he was a very humble man, I was fortunate to know him, and be a part of the show and even though it was in a small way, I enjoyed it, he was a role model the way he carried himself, and I can’t say enough good things about him. He always showed up to charity events and came to a charity event for my friend Tony Darrow, he posed for pictures with everyone. What a tremendous actor he was on top of everything else and a versatile one, he could play all kinds of roles, he showed he was not just Tony Soprano, he will be loved and missed by so many and myself.”
Denise and Frank Adonis:
“Frank and I send our condolences to James Gandolfini ‘s Family ! Frank worked with James on True Romance! A really nice man !! He will be missed, a great talent ! Love and Blessings to James as you make your way to your new role in heaven!! May your soul Rest in Peace!!”
“I met James Gandolfini when I first started acting in LA and we both had the same experience meeting A list actors and filthy rich people and in the end he was an actors actor that respected his craft. Rest in Peace.”
“There are no words for what I’m feeling on this sad night, James Gandolfini was a one of a kind person with lots of love and his kind heart always made everyone feel welcome.
I first met James on the Brooklyn set of Angie. My best memory of James was on the Sopranos set, the pilot while having lunch with my mom James was sitting behind us and he moved his tray and came and sat next to us. I knew at that moment James was an outstanding guy. He said he loved to hear our Italian story. Over the past years James and I had seen each other at different party’s and events. I last saw James at the studio while working on Taking of Pelham 123. James had been visiting the set with his family.
James Gandolfini will always be remembered for his talent and love for the role of Tony Soprano
Rest in Peace … James you will never be forgotten.”
“I am SO SO SAD over the passing of James Gandolfini,. This is sickening. What a great actor, and more importantly, a great man. I met him when I played Uncle Junior’s Bodyguard in the pilot episode of The Sopranos back in 1997. I was called to do a few more shows that year, but had a full time job that paid very well so I couldn’t take the days off. Of course I had no idea the show would take off the way it did.—-But I remember the kindness he showed to me. When I was leaving, he said to me—“What, you’re leaving already—Hope to work with you again soon”. I never did get the opportunity to work with him again, though I did one more episode of the show. He was so down to earth, so kind, and didn’t act at all like some prima donna’s that are in this business. He took his work very very seriously, but also was such a very nice, genuine man, and God Rest His Soul. It was a great show, with very good actors, but honestly, James was the MAIN MAN, that held it all together, with his very compelling acting. No one could have played that part better than him. His character was three dimensional, and not just a caricature and with all the parts he played, he did it his way, and breathed life into the character. So young to die. Makes me wonder about so many things. Anyway, R.I.P Mr. James Gandolfini. You will be missed by all. God Rest Your Soul.”
Mafia Life Chris:
“First let me say, I did have a chance to meet him one day. Just once, but the meeting was comical. Comical enough that he’d probably remember it. I was in NYC at a venture capital meeting to try and raise money for the next phase of MafiaLife, and he happened to be buying property in the building I was having the meeting. When we took a smoke break, he was in the same cigar lounge area, and I took the chance to introduce myself as Mob Candy Magazine CMO. If I didn’t ask him if he wanted to be on the cover, I would’ve regretted it forever.
Of course, he declined. But, it was how he declined that made us both laugh. And, I’m sure you had to be there to feel the funny vibe. I believe his exact words were “you can’t afford it kid, but its flattering”. When I asked “what if I could?”, he replied “you can’t”. My face implied he was right, and we both had a quick chuckle. I didn’t mind though, because he told me that he heard of the magazine, and that in itself was awesome.
On a business note, after tons of Sopranos episodes, which helped my creativity, and sparked some serious development for my MafiaLife game and, after doing Sopranos review call ins into the Ron and Fez show on Sirius XM (the first time I ever had my own music intro), he truly was a major influence on me personally. He was also a very convincing mob character in other shows too. One of my favorite actors. I plan on creating an entire MafiaLife event in memory of his legacy. He is going to be missed. My prayers go out to his family, friends, and peers. May he rest in peace.”
On a personal note, I had the pleasure of meeting James Gandolfini at a Soprano’s premiere party in New York City. I was walking out of the party with a friend, and Gandolfini was walking in front of us. My friend said, “Mr. Gandolfini,” James turned around and greeted us, my friend asked him if he would mind singing an autograph for him, Gandolfini obliged and seemed almost surprised and my friend said, “thanks, my friends will be impressed.” Gandolfni looked happy and smiled. You can tell he was humble and wasn’t the type of person that reveled in the spotlight and almost seemed surprised at his own celebrity status.
It says a lot when people from all walks of life have nothing but great things to say about a person. James Gandolfini was not only a gifted, talented actor but he was also a loving husband, father, brother, son and friend. He came into the rooms and lives of millions of people every Sunday night on HBO and despite the Sopranos season finale episode fading to black and leaving audiences in the dark, James Gandolfini’s spirit, tremendous talent and work will continue to live on and inspire people for generations to come.