It has been just over five years when on Wednesday, June 19, 2013, the entertainment and acting world lost a true giant when James Gandolfini succumbed to a massive heart attack and fell asleep in death. Gandolfini will forever be remembered as Tony Soprano on one of the greatest television shows of all time, and his character may be one of the best as well. The role of Tony Soprano was superbly written and thought out. Despite his remarkable role of Tony Soprano, James Gandolfini films were to ones to be remembered as well.
While being remembered as Tony Soprano is an extraordinary legacy to have, it is also a little bit sad that some people will never know what a terrific actor Gandolfini was. Tony Soprano is a crucial example of how great he was but only looking at his other work shows how good he was as Tony. I’ve decided to take a look at some of my favorite Gandolfini roles and some of his most diverse.
5. The Mexican 2001 (Winston Baldry)
Winston is a hitman, and that is close to the Soprano character, but Winston has a twist, he’s gay. He not only is gay, but he also has a conscience and doubts about his way of life. He brought a humanity to the character that was desperately needed. It was the character that stood out and made the movie better than it was.
4. Welcome To The Rileys 2010 (Doug Riley)
Doug Riley is stuck in a 30-year marriage with a wife who has never gotten over the loss of their 15-year-old daughter, and while Doug has become numb to his life as well, he begins to show signs of breaking out. On a business trip to New Orleans, he unexpectedly gets hooked up with a 16-year-old prostitute and starts to help change her life. This character is so complicated on the inside while being bland on the outside and near emotionless. He does a beautiful job letting his inner self-come through a little bit at a time.
3. Zero Dark Thirty 2012 (C.I.A. Director)
There isn’t much more opposite of the head of a mafia crime family than the head of the C.I.A. Therefore when he played the Director in the award-winning film about the ten-year hunt for Osama Bin Laden his brief time on film had to make an impact. The few words he spoke resonated and gave credibility to different characters and where they stood and what empowered them. Usually, when a more prominent name actor is cast in a smaller role, it is because the expertise is needed despite the size of the part. His skill was just what that character and film needed and got.
2. All The Kings Men 2006 (Tiny Duffy)
When I said that being C.I.A. Director was as opposite as you could get, I meant it, but playing a crooked southern politician in 1950’s Louisiana is just about as different. Tiny Duffy is a corrupt man working with significant politicians to help swing an election but when it doesn’t go their way he is forced to join the man trying to bring them down, and he has all but become his lap dog. With a pretty decent southern accent, he could play the character with the confidence of Tony Soprano until it was needed for him to be brought down to the low level and he filled those shoes just as well.
1. Cinema Verite 2011 (Craig Gilbert)
Gandolfini returned to HBO for this film which did well at the Golden Globes and various festivals. Craig Gilbert was a real-life person who was a television producer who is credited with creating what is now known as reality TV. He had the idea to follow a seemingly average family, and when the cameras come, the normal goes away. He struggles with the morality of what he is doing and trying to keep his feelings for the wife and mother of the family, in check.
Gandolfini will be much missed, and it is safe to assume now that a Sopranos movie is not going to happen. So as we reflect on his career and the things he did, remember these words from The Sopranos theme song: “ She said, you’re one in a million. You got to learn to shine.” Shine he did.