Gandolfini in one of the final episodes of “The Sopranos.” (Craig Blankenhorn / HBO via AP)


“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

Related: Tony Soprano: One of the greatest TV characters ever?

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

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