The big news this week was the untimely death of actor James Gandolfini, 51, while holidaying in Rome, following a suspected heart attack. Gandolfini was a fine actor and best known for his role as mob boss Tony Soprano in HBO’s seminal TV series The Sopranos. The show’s creator David Chase has issued a statement calling the late actor a ‘genius’, going on to say:
“Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that. He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes.
He also had a diverse film career, encompassing the Oscar-winning Zero Dark Thirty and war satire In The Loop and as with all his movie roles, despite a very distinct ‘look’, his performances were unique. However, perhaps Gandolfini’s greatest professional legacy is as the central protagonist of a show that set the benchmark for quality television drama, a process that spawned shows such as The Wire, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire and many others, not to mention influencing quality drama in the UK and globally. It also cemented HBO’s position as a channel of pedigree and integrity, favouring quality over viewing figures. A doctrine that has recently culminated in the release of Behind the Candelabra, which was made for the cable channel in America where it couldn’t get a cinematic release as it was deemed ‘too gay’ but has been a huge cinematic success in Europe and a viewing hit in the States, possibly paving the way for other unique movie projects to be released this way.
James Gandolfini’s immortal tortured Mafioso is an enduring image that is emblematic of the desire to continue making quality television and film in a world where too often the entertainment headlines are dominated by style, glitz, glamour and no substance. So for one last time let’s light a cigar, put on Woke Up This Morning and raise a toast to The Boss. Salut James.
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