The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar

Splash! Summer guide

Weekend to-do list
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.
Published: Saturday, June 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Heart attack for Tony 'lame,' Gandolfini once said

  • James Gandolfini, shown here as Tony Soprano in HBO's "The Sopranos," died Wednesday. He was 51.

    HBO / Barry Wetcher

    James Gandolfini, shown here as Tony Soprano in HBO's "The Sopranos," died Wednesday. He was 51.

TV viewers may well continue to argue for decades about whether Tony Soprano is dead, but it won't feel the same, now that the man who brought him to life is gone.
James Gandolfini, the burly -- and surprisingly shy -- actor who shot to stardom in HBO's "The Sopranos" as an up-and-coming mobster suffering a midlife crisis, died Wednesday in Italy of a possible heart attack, and never wanted to see his character go that way.
Killing the panic-attack-prone Tony off with a heart attack would be "kind of lame," he told reporters in 2006, back when speculation about how the show would end was all the rage.
But then he claimed to prefer the nuclear option: "That would be good. Boom!"
A character actor who was already 37 -- and looked even older -- when "The Sopranos" premiered in January 1999, Gandolfini never seemed entirely comfortable with the sudden fame the show brought him. I remember his deer-in-the-headlights look at a Television Critics Association awards event early in the show's run.
The next time he won a TCA award, I'm pretty sure he sent us all thank-you notes.
But I also remember him years later at an HBO press party, the kind of event no amount of arm-twisting could have forced him to attend.
The ambiguous ending of "The Sopranos" was still a hot topic, but I don't recall anyone having the nerve to ask him about it. Not when he was accompanied by several young, wounded veterans, some of them amputees, who'd participated in a documentary he'd produced for HBO, "Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq."
"I went to Iraq (the first time) because I was playing this tough guy on TV, and I guess I wanted to go meet a few real ones or something like that," he said during a news conference on the project.
"I was angry about the lack of attention that was being paid. I wanted to do something."
Gandolfini followed that up with another documentary for HBO, "Wartorn: 1861-2010," which looked at the psychically shattered veterans of America's wars.
"He was a genius," "Sopranos" creator David Chase said Wednesday. "A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes."
Gandolfini brought a sadness, and a humanity, to Tony, a man in the process of becoming a monster, that struck a chord with millions.
Gandolfini was preparing to return to HBO in a new, seven-episode limited series called "Criminal Justice," in which he was to play an unsuccessful lawyer. His death leaves that project in limbo, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
It's unlikely, in seven episodes or 70, that Gandolfini could ever have surpassed his work on "The Sopranos," whose first season alone is among the very best television ever made.
It would have been wonderful, though, to see him try.
Story tags » Television

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

HeraldNet highlights

A garden of ideas
A garden of ideas: Find a wealth of inspiration on Snohomish tour
'Everything fit perfectly'
'Everything fit perfectly': Lake Stevens QB explains why he committed to Georgia
A parking battleground
A parking battleground: Crowds flock to Lighthouse Park for beaches, farmers market
Summer on a plate
Summer on a plate: Many ways to enjoy melon, season's happiest fruit