The first time I saw James Gandolfini on the big screen was in the classic 1993 movie ‘True Romance’ where it has been said he defined the metamorphosis of cold blooded killer. It was easy to see that this guy had something special, especially considering this film was littered with unforgettable performances from Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper and Gary Oldman that is rich with trademark dialogue written by Quentin Tarantino.
Gandolfini portrayed the mob hitman Virgil, and later claimed on “Inside the Actor’s Studio” that he based his portrayal of Virgil on an old friend who worked as a mob hitman, which makes the performance all the more chilling.
Before the days of Netflix and binge viewing of your TV series, TV shows were seen as an inferior medium of entertainment compared to movies but something was about to change all that when The Sopranos hit our screens with 86 episodes from 1999 to 2007.
Suddenly the bar was raised and this ground-breaking show paved the way for the high quality TV shows that followed, which we take for granted today. DVD Box sets quickly became the norm as viewers turned away from traditional forms of TV viewing and enjoyed The Sopranos like one long movie.
With an incredible high calibre of writing, acting, directing and a killer soundtrack to boot, HBO had produced TV that was better than most movies, quality entertainment had arrived and the way we watched TV was about to change.
The secret to the show’s success was the outstanding bear like Tony Soprano played by Gandolfini who adopted a series of method acting techniques and always remained in character. “The heavy bathrobe that became Tony’s signature, transforming him into a kind of domestic bear, was murder under the lights in midsummer, but Gandolfini insisted on wearing it between takes.”
A modest Gandolfini said “The character is a good fit, Obviously, I’m not a mobster. But in most of the ways that count, I have to say, yeah — the guy is me.”[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSJ4IDOcT-k]
More recently he had been seen in Zero Dark Thirty,” Kathryn Bigelow’s dramatization of the hunt for Osama bin Laden; and a hit man in the 2012 crime thriller “Killing Them Softly.” but one thing is for sure we have lost one of the greatest character actors of our time but his performances will last forever.
Maybe the time is right to revisit The Sopranos but I have a sad feeling that the series will now offer a whole new perspective on both Tony Soprano and James Gandolfini.