A year ago today, James Gandolfini died. I remember where I was, standing in my school library refusing to believe the staff member who told me. Fact is, it’s been a year and I’m still not over it. James Gandolfini was a humongously talented actor; an actor who proved that being overweight didn’t have to hold you back in this business; an actor who had no trouble conveying any emotion; an actor who captivated you with one scene, and an actor who had nothing but respect and love for the work that he did. Despite playing so many violent characters, Gandolfini was a gentle giant, and his death left a huge impact on the world. A year has gone by so fast, and I even still have the newspaper article about his funeral stuck up on my wall. To celebrate his memory, let’s take a look at some of the best films of his career.
Before we start, we must give a quick honourable mention to his small but hilarious role as Doug Munny in the above-average comedy, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Gandolfini was a serious actor, but somehow managed to be funnier than both Jim Carrey AND Steve Carell.
Yes, this is a list about films, however hardly anyone would know who the man was without this phenomenal TV Show. Gandolfini became famous for playing Tony Soprano, a husband, father and mob boss who begins seeing a psychiatrist after the pressure of his family life, business and his overbearing mother becomes too much and starts giving him panic attacks. It’s gripping, heartbreaking, and almost impossible to comprehend just how perfect this show was.
Gandolfini had his first big break in 1993’s True Romance. Penned by Quentin Tarantino and directed by the late great Tony Scott, True Romance was the story of Clarence (Christian Slater), a nerdy comic book store employee who marries hooker Alabama (Patricia Arquette), kills her pimp (Gary Oldman) and runs away with a stash of cocaine which they try to sell in L.A., whilst the cocaine’s owners attempt to get it back. It was a largely unconventional love story, but if you ask me, it’s Tarantino’s best work and one of the best films ever made. Gandolfini plays Virgil, the underboss of Christopher Walken’s character, who brutally interrogates Alabama and almost beats her to death. It’s a small part but Gandolfini is electrifying and terrifying.
Something a bit more light hearted now, with 2009’s satirical comedy In The Loop. Based on the hit BBC comedy The Thick of It, current Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi reprises his role as foul mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker, as both the UK and the US are both on the verge of possibly launching a war in the middle-east. We see the behind the scenes efforts of officials and advisors to either promote or prevent the war. The film is amazingly well written, absolutely hysterical with Capaldi’s brilliant central performance being the highlight. But Gandolfini’s supporting role as Lieutenant General Miller also stands out, most notably the scenes in which he uses a pink toy laptop and his exchange with Tucker.
There’s a certain trend with the films in this list; Gandolfini plays a supporting role in all the mentioned films. He was never a leading man; sure, he was the centre of The Sopranos and thank God he was, but when it came to the big screen, he was always more comfortable playing on the side and delivered his best performances, as made obvious by his stellar performance in Killing Them Softly. Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt) is an enforcer hired to restore order after three dumb guys rob a Mob protected card game, causing the local crime economy to collapse. Jackie calls in Mickey (Gandolfini) a retired, alcoholic hitman to help him out. Gandolfini has literally 2 scenes in this entire film, and he blows everyone, absolutely EVERYONE out of the water, in a performance that should’ve been Oscar nominated.
He may have found comfort being in support, but on the rare occasion that he did then take the lead, he was still amazing. Enough Said is a sweet romantic comedy, telling the story of Eva (Julia Louis Dreyfuss), a masseuse and divorcee who attends a party with her friend played by Toni Collette (who took over 2013 as playing everyone’s Mum). There, she meets Albert (Gandolfini), also a divorcee who takes a romantic interest in Eva. The two start a relationship, but Eva unknowingly massages and has formed a good friendship with Albert’s ex-wife Marianne (Catherine Keener), who constantly complains about Albert to Eva. The film didn’t see release until after his death, but both Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfuss give exceptional performances in this charming romantic comedy.
What do YOU think?
hat’s your favourite James Gandolfini film? Let us know in the comments!