“It is an odd way to make a living. Putting somebody else’s pants on and pretending to be somebody else is occasionally, as you grow older, horrifying.”
— James Gandolfini, who masterfully played monsters like Tony Soprano, on the challenges of his profession. In a December interview with the Associated Press, the son of a bricklayer and a school cafeteria lady described how he got into acting to channel his youthful rage (“I don’t know what exactly I was angry about”) — but how he was now eager to set aside the mobster roles that made him famous: “I’m getting older, too. I don’t want to be beating people up as much.” He promised that his thug role in “Killing Me Softly” would be “the last nail in the coffin” — and indeed, he had already moved away from the stereotype. He played Leon Panetta in “Zero Dark Thirty” and was going to play a rumpled jailhouse lawyer in HBO’s “Criminal Justice.”
Gandolfini died suddenly Wednesday in Rome, while on his way to a weekend film festival in Sicily. ABC reports that Michael, his 13-year-old son from his first marriage, called for help after his father went into cardiac arrest in their hotel room. Gandolfini also leaves behind wife Deborah Lin, a former model he married in 2008, and Liliana, their 8-month-old daughter. Hard to believe that imposing guy who made such a vivid impression from the first episodes of “The Sopranos” was a mere 36 at the time — he was only 51 when he died.
Read his obituary: James Gandolfini, ‘Sopranos’ star, dies in Italy at 51
Also: Gandolfini, an active celebvocate for veterans’ causes, talked up his Iraq War documentary in Washington in 2007: A made man, making a difference, 9/7/07