James Gandolfini’s untimely death at the age of 51 was as shocking as the abrupt
cut-toblack conclusion of his most famous series, The Sopranos.
most people became familiar with the imposing-looking Italian American actor
after seeing him play the tough-guy mob boss Tony Soprano on HBO from 1999 to
2007, he had a successful career as a character actor on film long before
For those curious to see some of his best work outside the mob
confines of northern New Jersey, here are 10 of Gandolfini’s most memorable
True Romance, 1993: Gandolfini had only a few screen credits to
his name when he shared a short but memorable scene with heartthrob-on-the-rise
Brad Pitt in Tony Scott’s smart 1993 crime comedy-drama with a script by Quentin
Tarantino. Gandolfini and Pitt would act together again eight years later in The
Mexican, when they were both major stars.
Crimson Tide, 1995: Tony Scott
had an eye for acting talent, and his second film with Gandolfini also featured
many other unknown faces who would go on to great heights, including Viggo
Mortensen, Steve Zahn and Ryan Phillippe.
Get Shorty, 1995: John Travolta
was making headlines with his resurgent career when this 1995 adaptation of
Elmore Leonard’s novel came out, but Gandolfini stole his scenes as the mob
A Civil Action, 1998: Though by now he’d cultivated an
impressive career playing tough guys, thugs and heavies, Gandolfini subverted
expectations by playing an average working-class guy, wronged by the company he
worked for in director Steven Zaillian’s 1998 drama. Once again, Gandolfini
appeared opposite Travolta.
The Sopranos, 1999-2007: Gandolfini was just
37 years old when he began filming this HBO original series about a mobster
seeking therapy for his issues with his mother, but he seemed as though he’d
lived a lifetime. His layered, deeply felt portrayal of Tony Soprano turned
Gandolfini into a household name and earned him multiple awards and nominations,
including three Emmys for lead actor in a drama series.
The Man Who
Wasn’t There, 2001: Gandolfini joined the small but elite group of actors
interesting enough to appear in one of Joel and Ethan Coen’s movies in 2001,
appearing in this blackand- white homage to noir films of the 1950s. His small
role as sinister department store owner “Big Dave” Brewster gave him an
opportunity to act opposite Billy Bob Thornton as well as a memorably gruesome
Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq, 2007: When The
Sopranos ended in 2007, Gandolfini had the clout to do pretty much anything he
pleased, and he could easily have gotten any vanity acting project funded and
produced. But instead, he used that clout to produce an affecting documentary
that featured him on-camera interviewing wounded veterans of the war in Iraq. He
followed that project up with another documentary, Wartorn: 1861-2010, in
In the Loop, 2009: Transitioning from drama to comedy, Gandolfini
provided an American draw to this political satire from British writer-director
Armando Iaannucci which poked fun at political buffoonery on both sides of the
pond. Iaannucci has since focused on American buffoonery with his HBO comedy
Where the Wild Things Are, 2009: Rather than play it safe
by lending his voice to a run-of-the-mill computer-animated feature, Gandolfini
instead went with director Spike Jonze’s risky 2009 liveaction adaptation of
Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s book. As Carol, the most prominent of the
boy Max’s wild-thing friends, Gandolfini revealed a playful, childlike side to a
voice most knew only as a threatening presence.
Zero Dark Thirty, 2012:
Despite having an undeniable screen presence, Gandolfini was as comfortable in
supporting roles as he was starring. In director Kathryn Bigelow’s acclaimed
2012 film about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, Gandolfini had a small but
powerful role as real-life CIA director Leon Panetta.