The world lost a great actor last week when James Gandolfini passed away at the age of 51. Many tributes have been done that spent the majority of the time focusing on the groundbreaking performance Gandolfini gave as Tony Soprano on the HBO series THE SOPRANOS. Now I will gladly admit that Gandolfini did some really great work as Tony Soprano but I have fond memories of some of Gandolfini’s non-Tony roles that I would like to show a little appreciation for.
Who knew Janes Gandolfini could sing? I certainly didn’t but he belted out several tunes in ROMANCE & CIGARETTES, a criminaly underrated (and underseen) movie directed by actor John Turturro that featured a number of well known actors (like Kate Winslet and Susan Sarandon) singing their hearts out.
As stuntman turned mob muscle with a a heart of gold (he tended to turn almost every day into “Take Your Daughter To Work Day”), Gandolfini showed he had the acting chops to stand out amongst the who’s who of heavy hitters that made up the GET SHORTY cast.
His time in KILLING THEM SOFTLY was brief but I really liked what Gandolfini did with the role of Micket, a washed up self-destructive hitman who exasperated Brad Pitt’s Jackie Cogan to no end. Mickey was a sad and pathetic figure that Gandolfini played with such conviction that you couldn’t help but feel sorry for him and the inevitable end he was heading toward.
Anyone who read and grew to love the Maurice Sendak children’s books as a kid likely had a soft spot in their hearts for Carol, the lead “wild thing” and Gandolfini was a surprise casting choice for the role in the film adaptation but he pulls off a really endearing performance that was miles away from the usual roles he had come to be known for.
The LAST CASTLE is not a really great movie but it does boast one of my favorite Gandolfini performances that was also one of the least similar performances to the rest of his resume. Gandolfini plays a petty tyrant of a man who lets his own jealousy drive him to take extreme measures against Robert Redford’s decorated military prisoner.
My personal favorite Gandolfini performance…it was the first time I really noticed him and he was just absolutely riveting as the muscle for Christopher Walken‘s demented bad guy, Gandolfini was downright scary and the scene where he attacked Patricia Arquette‘s Alabama was so uncomfortable to watch but Gandolfini was still riveting in his brutality.