James was a genius and everyone who watched his smallest roles knows that. He is one of the best actors of all time. Much of that talent rested in those sad eyes of his. I remember telling him often:
– You don’t understand. You’re like Mozart, and then there would be silence on the other end of the phone line.
These and other details, I will present to you in the life story of James Gandolfini!
A tragic end
For his wife Deborah, son Michael and daughter Liliana, his death was a big blow, as for the rest of the world.
He was difficult at times, but he was my partner and brother in many ways that I will never be able to explain – said David Chase, screenwriter, director and producer of “The Sopranos” after the news went around the world that on June 19, 2013, actor James Gandolfini died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 51.
The famous Tony Soprano enjoyed with his family on vacation in Rome, where he was supposed to participate in the 59th Taormina Film Festival. His assistant, Tom Richardson, revealed how he spent a wonderful day with them just before the tragedy befell them.
– We had a great time, and when we returned to the hotel, he went to the toilet, but something happened there. His sister said he was alive when the ambulance arrived and took him to the hospital. Actor Jules Marini wrote a touching dedication to Gandolfini on his Facebook profile and revealed how the trip to Rome was organized in order to spend quality time with his thirteen-year-old son Michael.
– My heart is broken. My friend died. Last Saturday, he told me how happy he was to go to Italy with his son. A real trip for the guys! I am honored to have met this man who was a wonderful father. I spent a lot of time with his son teaching him to play football. It must be very difficult for him now, I sympathize with him. People, pray for James and his family – Marina wrote.
Allegedly, it was Michael who found his father fighting for his life on the bathroom floor at the Boscolo Exedra Hotel and helped him get to bed before calling the hotel staff who immediately tried to save the actor. When the doctors came to pick him up, he was still alive, but there was no help for him. The head of the Emergency Department of the Umberto I Hospital, Claudio Modini, said that the actor was already dead when he arrived at their house at around 10.40 pm, and they tried to revive him for the next twenty minutes. All their efforts were unsuccessful and at 11 pm they had no choice but to announce how he passed away. His numerous colleagues immediately shared their expressions of condolences and memories…
– Today we lost a giant and my heart is completely broken – wrote Lorraine Braco, his psychiatrist from the series “The Sopranos”.
And it is more than clear how many colleagues, critics and audiences loved the actor who was born on September 18, 1961, in Westwood, New Jersey. Santa’s mother worked as a canteen manager at a nearby Catholic school, and his father, James Joseph, worked as a bricklayer. He later found permanent employment as the head caretaker of the Catholic high school “Paramus”. They were both originally from Italy, where they often stayed as children, so later it was not uncommon for them to speak in Italian in everyday conversation. But, as James later explained, he and his older sisters Leto and Joanna were not taught that language by anyone.
– That’s how we talked when we didn’t want others to understand what we were talking about – said the actor who nurtured a love for Italy, which he often visited and where he finally came to an end.
His parents were religious and went to church with their children every Sunday, and his father always pointed out that they were essentially peasants.
– Dad often wore black socks with sandals and shorts that he would wear very high, of course without any shirt, he would put on a hat and go to the yard to mow the grass. His mother was always appalled by his clothes – he described, and when asked if he was a good child, he replied:
– Yes, until the beginning of high school. I was a little wild, but I never stabbed anyone. I was a good student, and I went to college because I had to. My mother always repeated how I had to enroll him. The first day I got there, I attended a party where there were five kegs of beer. When I saw that, I wondered why I ever objected to going to studies – said with a laugh the actor who did not like to watch his films.
He did not excel in knowledge and learning at school, but he was a good athlete, he played basketball for his Park Ridge high school and performed regularly in school plays. Even then, he became interested in acting, but he did not understand it as a serious calling. He was also popular among his colleagues, so he was even called the greatest charmer at school, and they loved him at Rutgers College, where he graduated in communication sciences in 1983.
Moving to New York
However, what he was educated for was never his primary occupation, and in order to have money for everyday needs, he tried his hand at various jobs. After moving to New York, he also ran the nightclub “Private Eyes” for a few years, and the people he observed there served him as ideal models for the characters he later played impressively.
– In a way, it was very instructive to work there. For two days there was a program for heterosexuals, then the same number of programs for homosexuals, and then everything else. I spent a few years there only in amazement and observation – said James, who during his studies became friends with the future Broadway star Roger Bart, who persuaded him to visit workshops with him where Meisner studied acting.
After the first meeting, he was afraid that he would manage there, and he was especially angry with the initial exercise that he had to do with the other participants. In front of everyone, he was supposed to thread through the needle, but his hands were shaking so much from nervousness that it was impossible. However, the professor did not let him give up, although his frustration and anger were clearly visible. Somehow, he calmed down and decided to go to classes regularly for the next few years. Later, he always pointed out how he learned a lot about his job there, among other things, how to go out in front of people and entertain them.
– In high school, I did a little acting, but then I completely forgot about it. When I was about 25, I went to that workshop. I don’t think anyone in my family thought it was a smart choice and that I would be successful, which is understandable to me, but they were happy for me to do at least something – said James.
On one occasion, he also described an anecdote from classes that he stated was crucial for the beginning of his career. In his twenties, he was angry with the whole world, but he always controlled himself up to one scene, which he was supposed to do with his colleague. He himself did not know what had broken in him, but at one point he began to break the stenography on stage. However, the mentor was not angry with him in the least. After he calmed down, she told him not to worry, because he didn’t hurt anyone, and how glad she was that he broke through that last barrier, because no one on stage wants to watch the bores. It was a big step for his professional development, and the professor only advised him to control his anger.
He managed to do that, moreover, he learned how to turn that rage into fantastic acting achievements. He even discovered a little trick that he sometimes used before filming violent scenes – he would stay up all night or hit an object several times with his head.
– When you’re tired, any little thing can make you angry.
Drink six cups of coffee or walk with a pebble in your shoes. I know it sounds funny, but it really works – he said wittily. Through acting, he was able to express emotions in the best way, and only after he became known as Tony Soprano, he discovered that as a nineteen-year-old he lost the girl he had been in a relationship with for two years.
A turning point in his career
– If she hadn’t died, maybe I would never have dealt with this – he said and explained how through acting, he could best get rid of all the negative feelings he had.
That he was really talented was soon noticed on Broadway, and he got his first job in the play “Tram called Desire”, where he played Steve, one of the card friends of the main male character Stanley Kowalski. In his professional debut, he had the great support of colleagues Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lang who played the lead roles. New roles were being made, but he decided to try his hand at film as well. The first opportunity for that came to him in the realization of “A Stranger Among Us”. He was increasingly assigned the roles of dangerous types, and the character of Virgil’s killer in the cult film “True Romance” made him one of the stars.
Although he became famous in wider circles, the role that marked his career, but also the history of television, is the character of Tony Soprano, a mobster who needs psychiatric help. The Sopranos were named the best series ever recorded in several polls, and Gandolfini did not believe that he would be offered the lead role.
– I read the script, I liked it and it was good. But, I thought he would take some handsome actor, not exactly George Clooney, but his Italian version. However, they called me and asked if I could meet David Chase for breakfast at nine in the morning. I was younger than, I often went out at night and I thought: Damn, this guy wants to meet me for breakfast. I can already see that it will be very hard for me – he recalled on one occasion.
Their meeting went great, they became colleagues and great friends, and from 1999 to 2007, they filmed 86 sequels to the cult series for which Gandolfini was awarded three Emmy’s and a Golden Globe.
When he started filming the series, he married Marcy Woody, with whom he had been in a relationship for three years. They seemed to have an ideal marriage, and the crown of their love was the birth of their son Michael in 1999, but he did not talk about them in otherwise very rare interviews.
– I let the work speak for itself and I don’t think I have anything interesting to say. I’m an actor, I work and then I go home. Who cares about my private life at all? Well, you don’t question the truck driver about his job – most often it was his answers.
The real shock came when it was learned that his marriage had not been working for a long time, and Marcy was the first to reveal details from their lives after a gentle giant, as some colleagues described him, handed her a divorce petition.
– I love James very much and I don’t want our marriage to end. I would not like our son to be the only one. I always believed that he was the only man for me, that he would love me and take care of me, as I do for him – Marcy began her story in early March 2002.
She described how completely shocking it was for her that James wanted a divorce and that his parents apologized to her for being embarrassed by their son’s actions for not raising him that way. She told the New York Post reporter through tears how she was with him while he was an anonymous actor, as well as that later fame completely changed him and as an example she stated that he used to walk in crumpled pants, and now only in those with Armani’s signature. She thought that everything was perfect in their relationship, although he sometimes verbally abused her, and just before the divorce request, he told her that he wanted to have another child with her.
– He’s in trouble. One day he would caress my face, and the next day he would say that I looked awful and that I was fat. Afterwards, he apologized and begged me not to give up on him. You feel so loved, and then he starts harassing you psychologically. At the “Emmy” awards ceremony, he said in front of everyone that he would not be without me and his son, and then he told me that he would die how unhappy he was. I don’t know why he is like that, maybe he is bipolar, manically depressed or everything went wrong after Michael’s birth. I had a difficult pregnancy and gained a few pounds. Before my son I was focused on him, and now on our child. Maybe I should have been a worse mother and a better wife – Marcy lamented.
When she found out that her ex-husband came to the premiere of the new season of The Sopranos accompanied by Lore Somoza, she decided to start a bitter court battle and discovered all the dirty laundry.
Then it was learned that their marriage had been in a great crisis for a long time, and it all started with Gandolfini’s frequent extramarital affairs with various women and he had weird sex with all of them. Marcy supposedly knew that, but the drop that spilled over the glass was his relationship with Somoza, whom he met on the set of the movie Mexican. She worked as an assistant director, and when Julia Roberts refused his open courtship, she threw herself on Laura, whom his wife always called a “slut”. He was often a guest at her Los Angeles home and took her to parties, and it was later written that he also cheated on her with nude model Cynthia Demos, with whom he was introduced by a colleague from the series, Michael Imperioli. Both ladies vehemently denied that they had any romantic relationship with him, and when she found out, Marcy decided to call a whole constellation of witnesses to court, who would confirm all her allegations.
However, in the whole story, the shock was not so much caused by his sexual games, but by Mars’ claims that he is addicted to cocaine and alcohol and how he tried to secretly be treated in a rehab clinic, but failed to complete the 28-day program. She also threatened to find out exactly which filmmakers she was on drugs with, and not only colleagues from the series were mentioned there, but also big Hollywood names. It was then that The National Enquirer magazine came into possession of court records from which the public learned that she kept a detailed diary of his drug use. In addition, the actor took Prozac as a cure for depression, and she also attached an excerpt of phone calls from Gandolfini and Somoza. It was revealed that in September 1997, he was arrested for drunk driving and sentenced to two years probation.
James and his mafia alter ego seemed to merge into one person, but then came to light his lawsuit in which he stated that Marcy was a mentally disturbed person who blackmailed him into committing murder if he ever left her, as well as that it will harm their child.
The actor claimed that his wife fell under the influence of a psychiatrist who was supposed to treat her, but he only manipulated her, and allegedly threatened to publish a book in which he would describe all the bizarre details from their marriage.
Although everyone expected a big fight in the courtroom, it did not happen because the spouses somehow managed to reach an agreement. The son stayed with his mother, but she did not fight for a ban on him visiting him.
Although he did not want to give any interviews, in December 2002 he decided to talk about some secrets that came to light during the divorce lawsuit.
– I’m clean and sober, it’s over. At one point, you tell yourself how you can no longer do such nonsense. It started when I was 18 or 20, and then everything escalated. Colleagues from the series knew that I would stop when I had had enough. I want it to be clear – I didn’t do drugs with anyone from the series – he said at the time, adding that he was aware that Marcy was injured. He also admitted the punishment for driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as going to a rehabilitation center from time to time, in order to be filled with positive energy that helps him stay clean.
The last days
He never revealed more than that, and that his ex-wife was right, at least when it came to Laura, soon became clear to everyone. The couple was even engaged, but after a year, the love broke because she had to move out of New York to take care of her sick mother. The actor did not stay alone for a long time and very quickly started a relationship with former model Deborah Lin, and after less than two years of relationship, on August 30, 2008, the couple exchanged marriage vows in her native Honolulu. The wedding was very romantic, and his godfather, eight-year-old son Michael, stood out in particular.
The couple also got a daughter, Lillian Ruth, and it seemed that they found real family happiness. But, it all came to an end in vain on June 19, 2013 … In his will, he left 70 million dollars to his family and close associates.
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