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James Gandolfini Biography

  • Profession: Actor
  • Born: Sep 18, 1961
  • Died: Jun 19, 2013

Born and raised in New Jersey, press-shy James Gandolfini forged a film career as a prolific character actor before finally emerging as a bona fide star in the critically-lauded HBO series [[Feature~V186627~The Sopranos~thesopranos[tvseries]]]. After earning his college degree in 1983, Gandolfini headed to New York to study at the Actors Studio. Supporting himself for almost ten years as a bartender and nightclub manager, Gandolfini's major break came in 1992 with a role in a Broadway version of A Streetcar Named Desire starring [[Performer~P3515~Alec Baldwin~alecbaldwin]] and [[Performer~P40447~Jessica Lange~jessicalange]], and his film debut in [[Performer~P100370~Sidney Lumet~sidneylumet]]'s [[Feature~V47204~A Stranger Among Us~astrangeramongus]]. Following small parts in several 1993 films, including the [[Performer~P113658~Quentin Tarantino~quentintarantino]]-scripted [[Feature~V51149~True Romance~trueromance]], Gandolfini played more substantial roles as one of the heavies in [[Feature~V132181~Terminal Velocity~terminalvelocity]] (1994), [[Performer~P17342~Geena Davis~geenadavis]]' neighborhood boyfriend in [[Feature~V131821~Angie~angie]] (1994), one of the submarine crew in [[Feature~V134690~Crimson Tide~crimsontide]] (1995), and a stuntman-turned-Mob enforcer in [[Feature~V135656~Get Shorty~getshorty]] (1995). Equally gifted at playing characters on either side of the law, Gandolfini appeared as the violent neighbor who assaults Robin Wright Penn in [[Feature~V154964~She's So Lovely~shessolovely]] (1997) and a cop in Lumet's legal drama [[Feature~V154943~Night Falls on Manhattan~nightfallsonmanhattan]] (1997).

Gandolfini played supporting roles in several more films, including [[Feature~V160191~Fallen~fallen]] (1998) and [[Feature~V174234~A Civil Action~acivilaction]] (1998), before he was cast as the head of a dysfunctional Mafia family in [[Feature~V186627~The Sopranos~thesopranos[tvseries]]]. Anchored by Gandolfini's superbly-nuanced performance as Prozac-popping, mother-bedeviled capo Tony Soprano, [[Feature~V186627~The Sopranos~thesopranos[tvseries]]] was hailed as a TV masterpiece for its alternately funny, surreal and deadly-serious look at New Jersey Mob life. Though he was passed over for the Emmy, Gandolfini won the SAG and Golden Globe Awards for Lead Actor in a TV drama for [[Feature~V186627~The Sopranos~thesopranos[tvseries]]]' 1999 season. During the series break, Gandolfini appeared as a slimy pornographer in [[Feature~V176056~8MM~8mm]] (1999).

Gandolfini finally added the Emmy to his trophies in 2000 for the second season of [[Feature~V186627~The Sopranos~thesopranos[tvseries]]]. Despite the inevitable criticism about the series' sophomore slump, there was no question as to Gandolfini's continuing excellence as the New Jersey Mob paterfamilias. Gandolfini followed his Emmy triumph with a supporting role as a gay hit man in The Mexican (2001), easily stealing the film from co-stars Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt. Even as he was earning The Mexican's few good notices in theaters, Gandolfini was garnering still more plaudits for [[Feature~V186627~The Sopranos~thesopranos[tvseries]]]' controversial third season, as Tony's increasingly delinquent son elicited anguished soul-searching from Tony about his legacy. Though his third Emmy nomination spoke to his formidable TV presence as Tony, Gandolfini also further burnished his movie credits with a small part in Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's Cannes Film Festival award winner The Man Who Wasn't There (2001), and a major starring role as a corrupt Army colonel who goes head-to-head with [[Performer~P107758~Robert Redford~robertredford]]'s incarcerated general in The Last Castle (2001).

Gandolfini continued to impress on [[Feature~V186627~The Sopranos~thesopranos[tvseries]]] for the show's run, which finally ended in 2007. He would also find success on screen, appearing in a wide and impressive variety of roles in films like All the King's Men, The Taking of Pelham 123, and Violet & Daisy. Tragically, Gandolfini died unexpectedly of a heart attack in 2013 at the age of 51. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi