James Gandolfini

James Joseph Gandolfini Jr.[1] (Italian: [ɡandolˈfiːni]; September 18, 1961 – June 19, 2013) was an American actor and producer best known for his role as Tony Soprano, the Italian-American crime boss in HBO's television series The Sopranos. He won three Emmy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, and one Golden Globe Award. Gandolfini's performance as Tony Soprano is widely regarded as among the greatest performances in television history.[2]

James Gandolfini
Gandolfini in 2011
James Joseph Gandolfini Jr.

(1961-09-18)September 18, 1961
DiedJune 19, 2013(2013-06-19) (aged 51)
Rome, Italy
Alma materRutgers University
OccupationActor, producer
Years active1980–2013
Marcy Wudarski
(m. 1999; div. 2002)

Deborah Lin (m. 2008)

His notable film roles include mob henchman Virgil in True Romance (1993), Lt. Bobby Dougherty in Crimson Tide (1995), Colonel Winter in The Last Castle (2001) and Mayor of New York in The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009). Other roles are enforcer and stuntman Bear in Get Shorty (1995) and impulsive "Wild Thing" Carol in Where the Wild Things Are (2010). For his performance as Albert in Enough Said (2013), Gandolfini posthumously received much critical praise and several accolades, including a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination and the Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor.

In 2007, Gandolfini produced Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq, a documentary in which he interviewed injured Iraq War veterans and in 2010, Wartorn: 1861–2010 examining the impact of posttraumatic stress disorder on soldiers and families throughout several wars in U.S. history from 1861 to 2010.

Early life and education

Gandolfini was born in Westwood, New Jersey.[3] His mother, Santa (née Penna), was a high school food service worker of Italian descent who was born in the United States and raised in Naples.[4][5] His Italian-born father, James Joseph Gandolfini Sr., was a native of Borgo Val di Taro, in the Northeastern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, who worked as a bricklayer and cement mason and later the head custodian at Paramus Catholic High School.[4][6][7] James Sr. earned a Purple Heart in World War II.[8] Gandolfini's parents were devout Roman Catholics who spoke Italian at home. Due to the influence of his parents, he developed a strong sense of Italian-American identity and visited Italy regularly.[6][9] He had two sisters.[10][11]

Gandolfini grew up in Park Ridge, New Jersey, and graduated from Park Ridge High School in 1979, where he played basketball, acted in school plays,[12] and was awarded the title "Class Flirt" in his senior yearbook. He earned a BA in Communications from Rutgers University in 1983, where he worked as a bouncer at an on-campus pub.[13] He also worked as a bartender and club manager in Manhattan prior to his acting career.[13] He was introduced to acting as a young man living in New York City, when he accompanied his friend Roger Bart to a Meisner technique acting class,[14] where he studied for two years under Kathryn Gately at The Gately Poole Conservatory.[15]


Gandolfini performed in a 1992 Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire as Steve Hubbell for 168 performances, and in a 1995 Broadway production of On the Waterfront as Charley Malloy for 24. One of his earlier film roles was that of Virgil, a brutal mob enforcer, in the romantic thriller True Romance (1993), for which he said one of his major inspirations was an old friend of his who was a hitman.[16] In the film Terminal Velocity (1994), Gandolfini played Ben Pinkwater, a seemingly mild-mannered insurance man who turns out to be a violent Russian mobster. In 1995 he was in the box office hit Crimson Tide. In that same year in Get Shorty (1995), he appeared as a bearded ex-stuntman with a Southern accent, and in The Juror (1996), he played a mob enforcer with a conscience.[4]

Gandolfini received widespread acclaim for his performance as Tony Soprano, the lead character in the HBO drama The Sopranos, a New Jersey mob boss and family man whose constant existential questioning includes regular psychiatric appointments. The show debuted in 1999 and was broadcast until 2007. For his depiction of Soprano, Gandolfini won three Emmys for "Best Actor in a Drama" and Entertainment Weekly listed him as the 42nd Greatest TV Icon of All Time.[17] In addition to the awards that he won, Gandolfini received numerous nominations and two SAG Awards for being a member of the series' ensemble.[18] By the final season in 2007, Gandolfini was making one million dollars per episode.[19]

In 2007, Gandolfini produced a documentary with HBO focused on injured Iraq War veterans and their devotion to America while surveying the physical and emotional costs of war. Gandolfini interviewed ten surviving soldiers, who revealed their thoughts about the challenges they face reintegrating into society and family life. They also reflected on their memories of the day when they narrowly escaped death and what life may have been like in other circumstances.

That same year, Gandolfini returned to HBO as the executive producer of the Emmy-nominated documentary special, Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq, his first project after The Sopranos and the first production for his company Attaboy Films, which was opened in 2006 with producing partner Alexandra Ryan. He returned to the stage in 2009, appearing in Broadway's God of Carnage with Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis, and Jeff Daniels. He received a Tony Award nomination in the category of Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for his role in the play, but lost to Geoffrey Rush, who played the lead in Exit the King. He played the Mayor of New York in the 2009 remake of The Taking of Pelham 123.

In 2010 Gandolfini produced another documentary with HBO, which analyzed the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder throughout American history, from 1861 to 2010. It featured interviews with American military officials on their views of PTSD and how they are trying to help soldiers affected by it. Letters from soldiers of the American Civil War and World War I who were affected by PTSD are examined, along with interviews with soldiers affected by PTSD and their families.

Gandolfini was executive producer of the HBO film about Ernest Hemingway and his relationship with Martha Gellhorn, titled Hemingway & Gellhorn (2012).[20] Gandolfini reunited with The Sopranos creator David Chase for Not Fade Away (2012), a music-driven production set in 1960s New Jersey, and the latter's feature film debut.[21][22]

Two films which he completed before his death on June 19, 2013, were released posthumously. The first was Enough Said, a romantic comedy which he co-starred with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The film was met with positive reviews, particularly for Gandolfini's performance.[23] He received posthumous Best Supporting Actor awards from the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Chicago Film Critics Association as well as multiple nominations, including a nomination for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role.

His final film performance was in The Drop, a crime drama in which he co-starred with Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace. Released September 12, 2014, the film was met with positive reviews for Gandolfini's performance.[24]

Gandolfini is credited as an executive producer on the HBO miniseries The Night Of which premiered in 2016. Gandolfini was set to star in the miniseries when it was pitched to HBO in 2013, but they ultimately decided not to go ahead with the show. HBO reversed their decision a few months later, and the show was green-lit, with Gandolfini still set to star, however he died before filming began. Actor John Turturro assumed the role intended for Gandolfini.

Personal life

Gandolfini maintained ties with his Park Ridge, New Jersey hometown by supporting its Octoberwoman Foundation for Breast Cancer Research. He lived in New York City and owned a lot on the Lake Manitoba Narrows.[25] Gandolfini had lived on a 34-acre (14 ha) property in Chester Township, New Jersey.[26] In 2009 he purchased a home in the hills of Tewksbury Township, New Jersey.[27] GQ's Brett Martin said about Gandolfini: "In interviews, which the actor did his very best to avoid, the actor would often fall back on some version of 'I'm just a dumb, fat guy from Jersey.'"[28]

Gandolfini and his first wife, Marcy Wudarski,[29] were married in March 1999, and Gandolfini filed for divorce in March 2002.[30] It was finalized December 18, 2002.[31] The union produced a son named Michael (born in 2000).[29][30][32] On August 30, 2008, after two years of dating, Gandolfini married former model and actress Deborah Lin in her hometown of Honolulu, Hawaii.[33] This union produced a daughter named Liliana Ruth Gandolfini (born October 2012).[34]


Gandolfini died suddenly at the age of 51 in Rome on June 19, 2013. He was expected to travel to Sicily a few days later to receive an award at the Taormina Film Fest. After he and his family had spent the day sightseeing in sweltering heat, his 13-year-old son Michael discovered him unconscious at around 10 p.m. local time on the bathroom floor at the Boscolo Exedra Hotel. Michael called reception, who in turn called emergency paramedics. Gandolfini arrived at the hospital at 10:40 p.m. and was pronounced dead 20 minutes later.[35] An autopsy confirmed that he had died of a heart attack.[36]

While word of his death spread, politicians such as John McCain and Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie took to the Internet to respond.[37][38][39] Christie ordered all New Jersey State buildings to fly flags at half staff on June 24 to honor Gandolfini when his body was returned to the United States.[40]

The day after Gandolfini's death, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, which has long featured Sopranos co-star Steven Van Zandt on guitar, dedicated a performance of their classic album Born to Run by doing a rendition for Gandolfini.[41]

Gandolfini's body was returned to the United States on June 23. Family spokesman Michael Kobold thanked both Italian and American authorities for expediting the repatriation process, which normally takes seven days.[42] The marquee lights of Broadway theaters were dimmed on the night of June 26 in Gandolfini's honor.[43]

Gandolfini's funeral service was held on June 27, 2013, at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights, Manhattan, New York City. He was cremated, and his ashes were given to his family.


TV Guide published a special tribute to Gandolfini in its July 1, 2013, issue following his death, devoting the entire back cover of that issue to his image. In it, columnist Matt Roush cited Gandolfini's work as Tony Soprano as an influence on subsequent cable TV protagonists, saying: "Without Tony, there's no Vic Mackey of The Shield, no Al Swearengen of Deadwood, no Don Draper of Mad Men (whose creator, Matthew Weiner, honed his craft as a writer on The Sopranos)." Similar testimonials were given by his co-stars and colleagues, including Edie Falco, who expressed shock and devastation at his death;[44] Sopranos creator David Chase, who praised him as a "genius";[45] Bryan Cranston, who stated that his Breaking Bad character Walter White would not have existed without Tony Soprano;[46] and Gandolfini's three-time co-star Brad Pitt, who expressed admiration for Gandolfini as a "ferocious actor, a gentle soul and a genuinely funny man".[47]

Three months after his death, it was reported that in Gandolfini's last will and testament, dated December 2012 and filed July 2013 in Manhattan Surrogate's Court, he left a substantial portion of his estimated $70 million estate to his two sisters, widow, and daughter. The will did not state any inheritance for his only son, Michael, because Gandolfini provided for him a separate trust funded by a life insurance policy.[48] In December 2013, following an online petition campaign started by Gandolfini's high school classmate, Lori Fredrics, his hometown renamed its Park Avenue to James Gandolfini Way at a public ceremony attended by several of his former Sopranos co-stars.[49]

Spike Jonze's 2013 film Her is dedicated to Gandolfini. Jonze and Gandolfini had previously worked together on Where the Wild Things Are.

In 2014, Gandolfini was posthumously inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

In 2019, his son Michael was cast as the younger version of James' character Tony Soprano in The Sopranos prequel film The Many Saints of Newark.[50]



Year Title Role Notes
1987 Shock! Shock! Shock! Orderly
1991 The Last Boy Scout Marcone's Henchman Cameo appearance
1992 A Stranger Among Us Tony Baldessari
1993 Money for Nothing Billy Coyle
True Romance Virgil
Mr. Wonderful Mike
Italian Movie Angelo
1994 Angie Vinnie
Terminal Velocity Ben Pinkwater
1995 Le Nouveau monde Will Caberra
Crimson Tide Lt. Bobby Dougherty
Get Shorty Bear Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
1996 The Juror Eddie
1997 Night Falls on Manhattan Joey Allegretto
She's So Lovely Kiefer
12 Angry Men Juror #6
Perdita Durango Willie "Woody" Dumas
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil Diner Cook Uncredited cameo
1998 Fallen Lou
The Mighty Kenny Kane
A Civil Action Al Love
1999 8mm Eddie Poole
A Whole New Day Vincent
2001 The Mexican Winston Baldry L.A. Outfest Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
The Man Who Wasn't There Big Dave Brewster
The Last Castle Colonel Winter
2004 Surviving Christmas Tom Valco
2005 Romance & Cigarettes Nick Murder
Stories of Lost Souls Vincent Segment: "A Whole New Day"
2006 Lonely Hearts Det. Charles Hilderbrandt
All the King's Men Tiny Duffy
Club Soda The Man
2007 Stories USA The Man Segment: "Club Soda"
2009 In the Loop Lt. Gen. George Miller
The Taking of Pelham 123 Mayor of New York
Where the Wild Things Are Carol Voice
2010 Welcome to the Rileys Doug Riley
Mint Julep Mr. G
2011 Down the Shore Bailey Euler
Violet & Daisy The Guy
2012 Killing Them Softly Mickey
Not Fade Away Pat Damiano
Zero Dark Thirty CIA Director Leon Panetta Nominated – Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Ensemble
The Patriot of America Daniel "Danny" Cole Voice
2013 The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Doug Munny
Enough Said Albert Posthumous release
Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor in a Comedy
Nominated – Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male
Nominated – London Film Critics Circle Award for Supporting Actor of the Year
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominated – Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
2014 The Drop Cousin Marv Posthumous release


Year Title Role Notes
1997 Gun Walter Difideli Episode: "Columbus Day"
12 Angry Men Juror #6 Television film
1999–2007 The Sopranos Tony Soprano 86 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (2000, 2001, 2003)
AFI Award for Actor of the Year - Male - TV Series (2001)
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama (2000)
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series (1999, 2002, 2007)
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series (1999, 2007)
TCA Award for Individual Achievement in Drama (1999, 2000, 2001)
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama (2001, 2002)
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (1999, 2004, 2007)
Nominated – Golden Nymph Award for Outstanding Actor – Drama Series (2008)
Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama (1999, 2000, 2001)
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series (2000, 2001, 2004, 2006)
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series (2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006)
Nominated – TCA Award for Individual Achievement in Drama (2003, 2004, 2006)
Nominated – Viewers for Quality Television Award for Best Actor (2000)
2002 Sesame Street Himself 1 episode
2004 Saturday Night Live Unidentified New Jersey Resident Episode: "Ben Affleck/Nelly"
2008 Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq Television film; producer
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Special
2010 Wartorn: 1861–2010 Television film; producer
PRISM Award for Best Documentary Program – Mental Health
2011 Cinema Verite Craig Gilbert Television film
2012 Hemingway & Gellhorn Television film; producer
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie
2013 Nicky Deuce Bobby Eggs Television film
2016 The Night Of Jack Stone Unaired pilot; also executive producer (posthumous credit)

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
2006 The Sopranos: Road to Respect Tony Soprano Voice and likeness


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