James Gandolfini life and biography

James Gandolfini picture, image, poster

James Gandolfini biography

Date of birth : 1961-09-18
Date of death : 2013-06-19
Birthplace : Westwood, New Jersey, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2013-06-21
Credited as : actor, The Sopranos, heart attack

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James Gandolfini, born September 18, 1961 in Westwood, New Jersey, United States is an American actor. James Gandolfini stars in HBO's hit series The Sopranos.

Born in 1961, James Gandolfini grew up in the New Jersey suburbs. After graduating from Rutgers University, he settled back into New Jersey life, working as a nightclub bouncer, and driving a delivery truck for Gimme Seltzer. It was not until the late 1980s, when a friend took him to an acting class, that Gandolfini got bitten by the drama bug.

Gandolfini died on June 19, 2013 of an apparent heart attack, while vacationing in Italy. Doctors analyzed samples from his body and have indeed confirmed the actor died of a heart attack, according to Modini, who heads the emergency department he was taken to in Rome.

Gina Bellafante of Time reported that an acting exercise involving threading a needle in his very first class intrigued and agitated Gandolfini so much, he vowed to return. "I'd never been around actors before," he told Bellafante. "I said to myself, 'These people are nuts; this is kind of interesting'."

As Gandolfini began to hone his craft, he earned a reputation as a persuasive character actor, specializing in playing up his quirks in supporting roles. Launching his career in New York theater, he won a role on Broadway in a 1982 revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, appearing with Jessica Lange and Alec Baldwin. He went on to tour Scandinavia with the same play.

Big Screen Debut

Gandolfini's first role on the big screen was in Sidney Lumet's A Stranger Among Us. He went on to play a hitman in Tony Scott's True Romance, which starred Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette. By 1999, he had appeared in more than 20 films, including Money for Nothing with John Cusack, Angie with Geena Davis, Terminal Velocity with Charlie Sheen, Crimson Tide with Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington, Get Shorty with Danny DeVito and John Travolta, The Juror with Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore, Night Falls on Manhattan with Andy Garcia and Lena Olin, She's So Lovely with Sean Penn and Robin Wright, A Civil Action with John Travolta and Robert Duvall, Fallen with Denzel Washington, The Mighty with Sharon Stone, and 8MM with Nicolas Cage and Joaquin Phoenix. Later, he appeared in Surviving Christmas, Lonely Hearts, Romance and Cigarettes, and Miracle at St. Anna.

The Sopranos

Gandolfini stepped into the small screen in 1999, when he accepted the starring role in HBO's series The Sopranos. Created by David Chase, who also produced the hit series I'll Fly Away, the show quickly became the highest-rated drama on cable. "The Sopranos are a bunch of annoyed people," Chase told Newsweek 's Kendall Hamilton. If the show is "catching on, it's because there are a lot of annoyed people out there."

The show features Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, a Mafioso whose efforts to deal with a mid-life crisis lead him to Dr. Jennifer Melfi, a therapist played by Lorraine Bracco. As Bellafante of Time wrote, "Gandolfini is masterly at conveying the simmering rage beneath his character's humanity. He brings all the right sweaty fidgetiness to a man whose life demands that he take his daughter to a college interview and kill a Mob informant in the same afternoon."

Gandolfini told HBO Behind the Scenes that his character is "a guy who always tries to do the right thing in his mind, which ends up screwing up everybody's life. He's always trying to do the right thing and it's never really the right thing--like blowing up his friend's restaurant to stop a hit. Nobody would think like that; he thinks it's doing the right thing, and instead it reverberates down the path and screws up everybody's lives."

Co-star Lorraine Bracco, who returns to the screen after spending several years working on documentaries with her husband, Edward James Olmos, gained acclaim for playing Mafia wife Karen Hill in GoodFellas, Martin Scorsese's 1990 mob film. In Interview, Bracco and Gandolfini discussed the show's unusual character dynamic. "Well, what's so incredible for a Mob show is you're totally surrounded by strong women," Bracco said. "None of us are wusses, that's for sure."

Gandolfini's Tony definitely isn't the typical Mafia character. "I had no interest in doing the dapper don kind of deal in The Sopranos," he told Interview. "I know that's a part of the Mafia thing and I think a lot of those gentlemen are like that but human frailty and confusion are what interest me.... I couldn't play another thug. Not to sound like a pretentious ass, but if you don't do something different, you don't grow. If you don't challenge yourself, then you don't find anything interesting."

The Sopranos ended its run in June of 2007, but Gandolfini stayed busy. In 2008, Gandolfini won the Screen Actors Guild Award for best actor in a television drama series for The Sopranos. In 2009, Gandolfini went from the small screen to the Broadway stage, appearing in God of Carnage with Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis and Jeff Daniels. Gandolfini also put his New York area roots to good use in 2009, playing the mayor of New York in a remake of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3.

On August 30, 2008, Gandolfini married his girlfriend, Deborah Lin, a model, in Honolulu, Hawaii, her home town. Gandolfini has one child with his ex-wife, Marcy Wudarski; they were divorced in December of 2002.

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