James Gandolfini aka Tony Soprano: You and your work will be missed forever

In an industry where heartthrobs are actors with chiselled physiques, Gandolfini's success made him a sex symbol.

Noman Ansari June 20, 2013
A common household name, the heavyset American actor was well respected for his craft, and his sudden death has left many of his peers in shock. The multiple award winning James Gandolfini (1961-2013), passed away on Wednesday while on holiday in Rome, where it is said that he was on his way to the ‘Taormina Film Festival’ in Sicily. Reports suggest that the cause of death was a heart attack.

Gandolfini shot to stardom with his brilliant portrayal of mob boss Tony Soprano, in the award winning HBO show, The Sopranos (1999–2007). Created by David Chase, the television drama often focused on the family of mobster Tony Soprano, as the Italian-American character tried to balance the obligations of running a criminal organisation, with managing a dysfunctional family.

At its peak in its fourth season, it is estimated by Nielsen ratings that the show had an average of almost 11 million American viewers alone. Meanwhile, the show’s final episode, where many fans speculated that Tony Soprano would be killed, was watched by nearly 12 million viewers in America. In 2007, Vanity Fair called The Sopranos,
“Perhaps the greatest pop-culture masterpiece of its day, a fearless series that has transformed television."

Embodying the fearless nature of the series was James Gandolfini, who beautifully walked a tightrope between the stereotypical uncaring alpha male, and an individual haunted by the murders of many. As a testament of his acting prowess, Gandolfini was most compelling during The Sopranos when his character was involved in psychiatric sessions with Dr Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). These scenes could have easily been dull, but Tony Soprano had great chemistry with his shrink, eventually developing mutual feelings of attraction. Here, Gandolfini displayed great emotional range as a tough guy looking to smother his own sensitivity, which was naturally written on his face.

In fact, he was once told by Chase that a great deal of his genius resided in his ‘sad eyes’,
“I remember telling him many times, ‘You don’t get it. You’re like Mozart.’

Because of his success on the show, the overweight actor also became an unlikely sex symbol, with a legion of female fans. In that sense he was an interesting anomaly in Hollywood, an industry where most heartthrobs are metro-sexual actors with chiselled physiques.

In one of his best exchanges with Dr Melfi, an irate Tony bemoaned the new breed of sensitive men, and wondered what happened to the ‘strong silent types’, aka Clint Eastwood. Perhaps it is fitting that as part of his legacy, James Gandolfini will be remembered as the attractive strong silent type, of his generation.

Outside of television, Gandolfini had roles in over forty Hollywood films, including a small part in Zero Dark ThirtyHe also produced two documentaries, which examined post-traumatic stress disorder amongst soldiers.

Gandolfini was a multitalented individual, who as Chase puts it in a released statement, will be missed,
“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.”

Read more by Noman here or follow him on Twitter @Pugnate
Noman Ansari The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


God damn shame about it | 10 years ago | Reply Big fan of Sopranos. Listen to "Woke up this morning" everyday when I drive to office. RIP Tony.
Parvez | 10 years ago | Reply James Gandolfini made the character of Tony Soprano a legend, not soon to be forgotten. If Marlon Brando immortalised the big time Mafia boss then James Gandolfini immortalised the small time mafia boss.
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