I’m very shocked and saddened to be reading the news that James Gandolfini has suffered a live ending heart attack and has died in Italy.
Of course his most famous role is as mob boss Tony Soprano in HBO’s critically and beloved series The Sopranos. When the reports and remembrances begin – they’ve already started not surprisingly – it’s his role in that show that will surely get the most attention.
I was an avid viewer of The Sopranos. It was one of the few shows my entire family and I would all be watching and be anxious to see what would happen the following week.
There really weren’t that many programs that I could say that about. I could easily say because it was a show set in New Jersey and being a family of New Jerseyan’s that why that was. But none of us ever watched The Real Housewives of New Jersey or The Jersey Shore, so it was something more than that.
Gandolfini made Tony an easy guy to like on that show and just as easily make him someone you hated. It was a really rich character to play and season after season he pulled it off beautifully.
When the Sopranos were at its height of popularity you would see pictures of Gandolfini and the cast all over the state of NJ. T-shirts, posters, photographs. You would constantly hear or read about a cast member making an appearance at some event or charity benefit around the state. That show really left an impact on the state, which I didn’t mind since it was a great show.
Since The Sopranos ended Gandolfini maintained a steady flow of acting work. Some very good performances too. Nothing was likely to top his role as Tony Soprano though. I think everyone knew that.
Acouple of years ago I heard he was filming a movie. I wrote a fan letter to Mr. Gandolfini at the filming location hoping it would somehow get to him. I included a photograph of him as Tony Soprano that I had asked him if he could autograph. I was into autograph collecting for awhile.
Much to my delight I received that photo back signed. I have no idea if it was actually him who signed it or a secretary or what, but I like to think it was him. It’s become one of my favorite autographs that I’ve gotten. I don’t have a lot of wall space, but it’s one of the few photos that has gone into a consistent rotation of being displayed on my wall.
I’m really surprised he’s gone. It’s a sad day.