For Chip: He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion. —Unknown

Monday, August 5, 2013

James Gandolfini aka Tony Soprano

Why is there  an intense attraction to deceased celebrities rather than admiring them while alive?  I have been fascinated by James Gandolfini since his death in June 2013 in Italy.  I inadvertently recorded his interview with James Lipton on  "Inside the Actor's Studio".  I used to find Lipton's program annoying, but I frequently find myself in tears when he asks a question that exposes the raw emotional side of an actor that is rarely revealed.  He must be a genius because most of his interviewees rarely skirt the question and come clean with their emotions.  He was able to bring out heart wrenching  emotion from Spike Lee.   Lee was in tears as he explained how his film was subsidized by contributors that knew they would never get a return on their investment.

I loved the Sopranos excluding the horrific violence that occurred on a weekly basis.  I disliked the way women were treated except for Tony's mother and wife.  Those two women could cut Tony down with little effort, and their strength made them attractive. Lipton illustrated through pictures how Edie Falco could convey a message with no dialog.  Mr. Gandolfini explained how the violence sometimes made him feel rotten, and struggled for days after a scene.  He let the audiences know he experienced   doubt when he felt inadequate to play the character or a scene.   It was necessary to step back and redo something if it could be done better.  Admitting his shortcomings to others makes him seem so vulnerable, and reveals a likable trait in an actor.

Lipton asked if Tony needed to be overweight.  He explained that he cannot portray Tony in the right way if he is too thin.  Tony has a certain swagger and sits a certain way when he is on the heavy side. James  Gandolfini likes Tony's character because he  has no religion, no government, but lives by a code of rules.  The actor explained that he was frequently complimented by other mob bosses on a job well done.  A "Don" called to tell him that he should never wear shorts to a barbecue as he had done in the pilot.

James Gandolfini received other accolades for movies that he made.  He  had no desire to play an attorney or doctor.  He wanted to play parts that exemplified his parents who were hard working blue collar workers.

He talked about losing sleep when he needed to appear angry in a scene.  He sometimes put a pointed rock in his shoe and wore it all day.  He said by the end of the day he would be so angry that he could project a ruthless side very well.  He noted that he had received therapy as a result of the Sopranos.  His work with the psychiatrist in the series known as Dr. Jennifer Melfi (played by Lorraine Bracco)  helped him work out some of his problems.  He said the two of them had a weird relationship, and he learned a great deal  about himself because of the scripted therapy.

James Gandolfini was one unique actor identified by his physique.  He told a student  never to worry about their looks and just go with what they have.  No changes necessary. His words of wisdom were inspiring and helpful to young actors.  His life was cut short and he still had a lot to give.  Mr. Gandolfini died enjoying his son, career and family in Rome. He did leave this world on top, and will be an admired actor indefinitely.  His next movie will be released in September with Julia Louis Dreyfus titled "Enough Said".  He was asked what he would like to hear God say at the pearly gates.  His answer was "Take over for a while.  I will be right back".  RIP James Gandolfini 1961-2013.