Wednesday, June 19, 2013

James Gandolfini, age 51

Wonderfully talented actor with a conscience.

Every character James Gandolfini played looked unhealthy, & he looked unhealthy in person, too. My first reaction to The Sopranos was a shock of recognition, that I had met & heard people like them many times in real life in New Jersey. I had. So had Gandolfini.

 When I saw him in Crimson Tide I thought, that's the guy from True Romance. I still didn't know his name. With Get Shorty, I wanted to know who he was, he played the part of  Bear so true to Elmore Leonard's written character.

 The unveiling of The Sopranos, prior to the Radio City official debut, was at Union County Arts Center in Rahway. The Sopranos had the most buzz for a TV show since Twin Peaks. From my point of view, Steven Van Zant was the "name." My employer at the time, a close friend of one of Gandolfini's Rutgers roommates, managed to obtain an invitation. I walked over to the theater - I lived across the street - but  could not find a way into the event. They had that place locked down.

There are only two star-celebrities Jerseyans really embraced & owned, Springsteen & Gandolfini.

My friend Jim Ruggia posted this great tribute. I don't think he'll mind me using it:
I went to see Streetcar Named Desire with a then young Jessica Lang & Alec Baldwin as Stanley. Baldwin called in sick & Gandolfini, who was young and svelte then filled in. He brought all that power of impending explosion to the play. It was obvious he was much more than an understudy. There were times as Tony Soprano when he was able to fully communicate a terrifying vacuity in his gaze, that registered with me as what true nihilism actually looks like. He was a giant.

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