I am deeply saddened by the sudden passing of James Gandolfini. He died way too young (at age 51) and if the recent outpouring of condolences, love and sharing of memories is any indication, he will be remembered for a long time.
In my opinion, Tony Soprano is the greatest character on the greatest drama in television history. Creator David Chase and the loads of amazing supporting cast members deserve all the recognition that they receive, but the show would have been nothing without James Gandolfini. His brilliant performance rewrote the rules and changed television forever.
Tony was not a good person, but Gandolfini’s portrayal made us root for the bad guy. Despite all of the terrible stuff his character did, he was somehow relatable and made us empathize with a sociopath. James helped make cable the premiere destination for great storytelling and he paved the way for every anti-hero that currently captivates TV.
The Sopranos was one of the best written shows in television history but the acting – led by Gandolfini – lived up to the superb scripts. The fact that so many people are taking his death so hard is a tribute to how he had mastered his craft. Tony was our friend who we knew so well and I feel a sense of loss despite never having met him in my life.
David Chase’s statement upon finding out about his friend’s says it all:
“He was a genius. Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that. He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes. I remember telling him many times, ‘You don’t get it. You’re like Mozart.’ There would be silence at the other end of the phone.”
That’s quite a tribute from a very smart man who knew him very well. I’m eager to re-watch The Sopranos and I’m also excited to check out some of the movies where Gandolfini played supporting roles. We lost an icon yesterday. Gandolfini, who by all accounts was also a warm, loving and kind person, was a tremendous actor who will be deeply missed. His family and friends can take solace in the fact the James will live on through his work for years and years to come.