The passing of James Gandolfini. So shocking and so untimely. It’s hard to lose someone like this; for a television cult-watcher like me, he loomed so large that it feels like one of the Jenga blocks at the very bottom has been pulled away. He was an actor of great depth and power. Your kindhearted fat father, your gangster sex dream, your flinty-eyed killer. David Chase’s statement breaks my heart:
He was a genius. Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that. He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes. I remember telling him many times, ‘You don’t get it. You’re like Mozart.’ There would be silence at the other end of the phone. For [his wife Deborah Lin] and [children] Michael and Liliana this is crushing. And it’s bad for the rest of the world. He wasn’t easy sometimes. But he was my partner, he was my brother in ways I can’t explain and never will be able to explain.
I’ve written about The Sopranos before, particularly Tony: here, here, and here. No matter how much anyone writes, you can’t really describe Gandolfini’s work properly, because what he did was made for quiet watching, slow cooking. I guess he wanted to get away from Tony Soprano, and I’ve seen him be great in other films and shows, but the Boss was his legacy. It was a performance that lasted years and touched every sweet and vile corner of the human experience.
Chase is right; it was all in the eyes. So tender for such a hulking beast. Even as he wreaked havoc and destruction, Tony begged for love in a million different ways. Gandolfini was a master. When he was Tony, he was in a scene, acting with his co-players, but he was also an entire history and a life, wedged through the doorway carried on those giant shoulders.
Just so sad. He was so good and I watched him so closely and for so long. If you’ve never seen The Sopranos, now is a great time to experience one of the best actors to grace the screen. Farewell, a salud.