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David Poland

By David Poland

The Great Gandolfini

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24 Responses to “The Great Gandolfini”

  1. TA Snyder says:

    Just scratching his fifth decade on the planet, the man best known as Tony Soprano leaves an impressive body of work many fans will rightfully lament as far from complete. A man that big, bursting with that insanely magnetic presence teetering between child-like heart and harrowing I’ll-end-you physicality, a man who could so totally inhabit and symbolize a part of our culture just can’t be “gone,” can he? Though it’s a tragedy for those close to him and frustrating for those who know and love him only through his work, Mr. Gandolfini will never be gone…

    Though many will quote The Sopranos in his wake, I’m drawn to one of his final roles, one that I feel is often overlooked (probably because it featured only his voice). As Carol, the creature at the heart of Max’s WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE island, Gandolfini’s voice inhabited that chaotic place in which the human soul trembles…laughing one moment, clinching our fists the next, holding stubbornly to the imagination that flowed freely when we were children, furious at the notion of letting go of “wild things” to become an adult….

    I think this scene speaks beautifully to the feeling that pangs deep inside our stomachs upon receiving sudden news that doesn’t seem “real.” It echoes back to childhood when the idea of mortality first struck our hearts. Though the end of the clip is a bit of a “joke,” I think it hits upon something important concerning death in general. Don’t feed that overwhelming fear of it…if you do, it will follow you around and make you miss some beautiful moments in the sun.

    RIP Mr. Gandolfini. Your voice will live on.

  2. leahnz says:

    Aw, what sad news and what a loss – Gandolfini will surely go down as one of the great character actors of his generation. he’s had many great roles and given many memorable performances, and while his turn as tony soprano will likely go down in history as his iconic character creation, weirdly i think the performance that will most stick with me is in a movie I don’t even really like as a whole, his turn as Winston in ‘the mexican’, a surprisingly touching, conflicted perf playing off terrific chemistry with Roberts (he lifts her game like a great tennis player), my heart broke for Winston. And for me his most iconic single scene, it would have to be as virgil in his epic searing beatdown of arquette in ‘true romance’, stunning stuff. peace be the journey Mr. Gandolfini.

  3. arisp says:

    Truly heartbreaking. Having a cigar in his honor. Hopefully Kevin Finnerty found that light tonight…

  4. Sideshow Bill says:

    This sucks so bad. One of his better and kinda forgotten roles was as the snuff film scum bag in 8MM, with Nicholas Cage. The film as whole isn’t great, but he is.

    And he was so good in IN THE LOOP. Sigh…RIP James.

  5. Tuck Pendelton says:

    Couldn’t agree more that his voice work in WtWTA propelled that movie from start to finish.

    The show wasn’t always great, but when The Sopranos was great it had no equal. And much of that has to do with Gandolfini.

    Never saw God of Carnage, and am really kicking myself now.

  6. djiggs says:

    It is almost as big of a gut punch as Roger Ebert’s death. I link these two men because I remember before the Sopranos – Ebert started praising Gandolfini because he was so stellar in his supporting turns. Ebert even praised his work in “The Juror” with Demi Moore & Alec Baldwin, which was such a dud. You can make a clip reel just from all his pre-Sopranos work:

    -Virgil’s soliloquies and fight to the death with Alabama in “True Romance”
    -Lt. Bob Doughery’s loyalty and LOVE for Gene Hackman’s Captain Ramsey in “Crimson Tide” (the last shot of Gandolfini’s face in the movie – just trying to hold back the devastation of Ramsey being wrong)
    -Bear going toe to toe then helping out Chili Palmer
    -Joey Allegreto’s shame when Andy Garcia’s Sean Casey rips him a new one in Lumet’s underrated “Night Falls on Manhattan”
    -the ordinary man in A Civil Action
    -licking Nic Cage’s gun before he dies in “8mm”
    -showing that a film can contain both John Goodman and himself in “Fallen”

    Then, the Sopranos which kicked the door off the hinges in regards to having “un-handsome” leading man in television.
    While Patrick Stewart/Andre Braugher/Dennis Franz have to be given their due for changing who American television viewers followed (especially in regards to baldness), it would have been a lot harder for Michael Chiklis, Hugh Laurie, Brian Cranston, Michael Hall, Damian Lewis, Ian McShane, etc. to have gotten leading roles if Gandolfini/Chase/Sopranos crew had not hit out of the ball park. Would the age of the leading man anti-hero on television been as potent without Tony Soprano? The anti-hero viewpoint is so prevalent that the handsomest man on television (Jon Hamm) has as many opposing natures within himself as any other typical anti-hero.

    Then, during and post-Sopranos ,
    -one of the greatest vocal performances of all time in “Where the Wild Things Are”
    -Winston in “The Mexican”
    -Lt. General Miller computing a future war’s cost on a toy calculator in “In the Loop”
    -trying to choke the life out of Billy Bob Thornton on the cracking glass in “The Man Who Wasn’t There” (he looked glorious in black and white)
    -Singing romantic fool in John Turturro’s “Romance and Cigarettes”
    -Colonel Winter’s jealousy of Redford’s General Irwin in “The Last Castle”
    -conflicted but ultimately decent Mayor in Tony Scott’s “Taking of Pelham 1 2 3”

    Thank you, Mr. Gandolfini for all those moments and more.

  7. Keil S. says:

    His role in Get Shorty foreshadowed most of his wonderful and all-too-short career. This is a terrible loss, and rather shocking on a personal level, as I finally convinced my wife to let us start rewatching The Sopranos in its entirety this past week. Plus, he had such a great year in 2012 and it really seemed like his career was having an upswing. He was just one of many phenomenal (and phenomenally overlooked) performances in Killing Them Softly. Sigh.

  8. PcChongor says:

    Watching “Perdita Durango” in his honor tonight. Dude was like a modern day Peter Boyle.

  9. berg says:

    don’t forget Not Fade Away, he was great as the dad

  10. Tuck Pendelton says:

    Literally rented Not Fade Away last weekend. Strange film. Truly out there in terms of not giving its audience much. But he was great as always.

  11. Windy City says:

    I second Gandolfini’s performance in “Not Fade Away” as being a real gem. The movie is narratively messy, and the young leads aren’t terribly compelling, but Gandolfini towers over that thing. The scene when he’s talking to his son in the restaurant about the regret in his own life and then later the silent scene as he watches “South Pacific” on TV are masterful. Gandolfini was always one of the best physical actors in the business — he could say so much with just a sideways glance or in a reaction shot. What a tremendous loss.

  12. Bulldog68 says:

    The man even elevated Terminal Velocity with Charlie Sheen. He was such a nuanced calculating baddie with this ever present smile on his face that seemed genuine, and not just an evil grimace.

    I see on his filmography that he was an uncredited henchman in The Last Boy Scout. Now I have to rewatch that to find his scene. Then its a True Romance, Fallen, Where the Wild Things Are movie session.

    Truly one of the great ones. And I always wished Scorsese and him had collaborated.

  13. The Pope says:

    Every actor dreams of the one great part. Gandolfini delivered in many other roles, but he was granted 6 seasons in which to flesh out a character that few others are ever granted.

    So, while it is always sad to see such talents leave at a time when we feel there was so much more they could give (and certain as I am that Gandolfini would only have given us more treats as we travelled further along), I take heart from the fact that while he could, he gave us everything. So, let us celebrate what he left to us.

  14. Greg says:

    He ate himself to death…as are 3/4 of Americans.

    Very sad for his family that he couldnt take care of himself and live on for his loved ones. Very selfish of him, really.

    But, please God, no-one blame it on or mention his weight…that’s unAmerican.

  15. Sam says:

    Greg, you are such a tool.

    Admit that your venom is personal: the guy was allegedly rude to a friend of yours. We get it. Spreading hate and intolerance isn’t a very good response to that.

  16. Paul Doro says:

    That may be true Greg, but you seem downright gleeful when reminding people that he was a big man. You come across as a hateful a*%hole. And he was mean to your friend? Cripes, get over it. Is this 4th grade?

  17. anon says:

    Greg, can we deduce this round of heartless fat shaming to your being through a bout of depression this time? Or just because you are a hate-filled know-nothing who wants to feel important by putting down those that have actual problems and not “I can’t find the right man for me at my local bookstore” problems?

    I’ve been very disturbed by this type of self-involved moralizing over Mr. Gandolfini’s death. When people like Greg die, I’ll make sure to note that his concern and subsequent stress over people’s sympathy for Mr. Gandolfini led to his death, so we shouldn’t be sheep and mourn him. Disgusting people.

  18. YancySkancy says:

    Gandolfini will be remembered for his talent. Seriously, Greg, what is it you want to happen? Instead of testimonials to his talent and heartfelt remembrances from his friends, colleagues and loved ones, should we have criticisms of his lifestyle and “think pieces” about the obesity epidemic? The reason none of the coverage is mentioning or blaming his weight is because such material has no place in an obituary or an objective news report, and of course because any editor with a brain can foresee the backlash such insensitive and cruel reportage would cause.

    Luckily for you, Greg, blogs and website comment sections are often free of such restrictions, so you can continue to go forward and do God’s work of reminding everyone that an unhealthy lifestyle can be fatal. Hey, while you’re at it, maybe you can hit a few military blogs and point out that the press never mentions that if soldiers were smart enough to go AWOL we’d never have any combat fatalities.

  19. skycapitan says:

    I’ve never seen The Sopranos..
    I’m stunned that only season 1 and 6 are available on blu-ray.
    I won’t watch it until there’s a blu-ray box set I can buy.
    Now there’s hope that will happen

  20. greg says:

    actor allegedly consumed “two orders of fried king prawns, foie gras, four shots of rum, two pina coladas and two beers.

    Is he not the heartless one for leaving his family? He basically committed suicide.

  21. YancySkancy says:

    Yeah, nothing at all heartless about using the occasion of Gandolfini’s death, at a time when his fans and family are mourning, to get on a soapbox about other people’s eating habits. Again, what is it you want to happen here? Instead of obits and tributes — dissertations on obesity and clean living? How is that appropriate? If you die in a car accident, do you want the coverage to be all about auto safety? You’re a judgmental jerk. Own it.

  22. moosenuts says:


    Jeff Wells called. He wants his schtick back.

  23. Ray Pride says:

    Eating the NYPost and The Daily Mail are dangerous for your mental health as well.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

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