James Gandolfini Is Dead (1961 – 2013)

June 19th, 2013 // 32 Comments
James Gandolfini

For those of you just returning to the Internet, Deadline broke the news that James Gandolfini died in Italy this morning from a heart attack. The man was only 51:

Overweight, balding, rough around the edges with a thick New Jersey accent, Gandolfini was the opposite of a marquee leading man, destined to be a character actor, and yet he proved through his masterful acting that he could make Tony Soprano sexy and smart, towering and powerful. his portrayal was one of TV’s largest-looming TV anti-heroes — the schlub we loved, the cruel monster we hated, the anxiety-ridden husband and father we wanted to hug in midlife crisis when he bemoaned, “I’m afraid I’m going to lose my family. Like I lost the ducks.” In the most maddening series finale in recent history – an episode chock full of references to mortality (life, death, a William Butler Yeats reference to the apocalypse, a bathroom reference to a “Godfather” bloodbath) — his was the show’s last image, seen just as the words “Don’t stop” were being sung on the jukebox. It generated such extreme reaction that the series’ fans crashed HBO’s website for a time that night trying to register their outrage that it ended with a black screen, leaving them not knowing whether Tony Soprano had been whacked. … In large part to Gandolfini’s charisma (“Jimmy was the spiritual core of our Sopranos family,” Chris Albright noted today), that Season 5 of The Sopranos in 2004 remains the most watched series in HBO history with 14.4 million viewers on average.

I’m not going to try the pretentious route of naming James Gandolfini’s other roles that are less obvious than The Sopranos because let’s recognize exactly what it was: The evolutionary moment when television said, “You know what Hollywood? You go ahead and make reboots and disaster porn and Paul Blart 2: Paul Blart Fart, we’re gonna do something different.” It sounds cliche, but The Sopranos literally redefined television and paved the way for such awesome fucking gems as Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Deadwood and a whole bunch of others I’m forgetting. None of which wouldn’t have happened without James Gandolfini bringing it every Sunday. Not to mention, on a more personal note, I say, “She was a who-ah, Tony,” in Ralphie’s voice at least five times a day.

Thanks, Jim. Rest in Peace.

Photos: Getty

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  1. Ming the Malevolent

    How very sad. RIP Mr. Soprano. I loved your work. My condolences to your family

  2. R.I.P. Mr. Gandolfini. An icon has passed today.

  3. RIP, James Gandolfini. You could combine menace and pathos like no one else, and you made it disturbing to consider how they really could co-exist in one person.

    I hope wherever you are there’s lots of fuckin’ ziti.

  4. oh i know

    oh my gosh, I just saw this–loved this man :(
    RIP to a one of a kind…..

  5. Ash

    Was not expecting to see this today. Wow. What an actor. So so sorry to his loved ones but also for the rest of us who will miss his work. Besides being Soprano obviously I loved him in The Mexican with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. He was a big part of that movie! One of my favorites.

  6. mark

    sad, terribly horrid news. just too young for a mastermind character actor to go. no one could have created such an iconic character that reached such heights of supreme capability that the man and the character he portrayed will never be forgotten. brilliant actor. terribly sad story. Rip indeed.

  7. RIP James Gandolfini.

  8. Hung Well

    James Gandolfini is gone forever and people like Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian, and Lindsay Lohan still walk this Earth. Either God does not exist or he has a very cruel sense of humor.

  9. Wow, so sad – definitely my favourite HBO series of all-time.

    Is there a typo at the end, or am I just having trouble? Should it say “would” instead of “wouldn’t”?

  10. cc

    He played that part so well it was easy to lose sight of the fact Tony Soprano was a fictional character.

    What a fucking drag.

  11. Ripley's Believe It Or Not

    Nobody’s said it, but how fitting was it he passed away in Italy.

    RIP.

  12. Fappuccino

    I’m gonna miss this mofo, really liked his work. :( RIP

  13. swalton

    Rest in peace Tony Baritone.

    You used to be called Tony Soprano but now you’re a whole lot deeper.

  14. swg

    I hope there is a badabing in heaven.

  15. Cock Dr

    Even I know who this man was and we don’t have cable.
    Fifty one is way too young to die…RIP

  16. The Illuminati Did It

    Too bad, but it makes you wonder. I thought Gandolfini was fifty-one. Unfortunately, that was 8 years ago.

  17. Whatta muddafuckin’ shame dis is… RIP, Mr. Gandolfini.

  18. Too young & too soon. RIP James Gandolfini.

  19. j-money

    Holy smokes, I don’t say ‘she’s a who-ah’ in Ralphie’s voice, I say, ‘It’s the JAAAA-cket!”

  20. EricLR

    As probably the only living human on the planet who liked “Surviving Christmas,” I say RIP.

    Yeah, that’s right, I said it. And you know what? I *still* like it!!!

  21. Dave

    One of his best characters was that of slime-ball pornographer Eddie Poole in 8MM (1999) with Nic Cage.

    RIP Jimmy

  22. PinkyTuscadero

    Tony (to Christopher): Where the fuck you been?
    Christopher: Highway was jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive.

    RIP

  23. Dan

    I feel especially bad for his 13 year old son. To find your dad dying, and then to be alone in a foreign country while the rest of your family is on the other side of the planet…. that’s gotta really fuck a kid up.

  24. Batu Khan

    It’s a small movie but I really liked him in Surviving Christmas. Here was this big, intimidating guy. But by the end of the movie you completely fell in love with his character because he was just a big lovable teddy bear. RIP

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