The Jewish Side of James Gandolfini

Tony Soprano Knew He Was in a 'Very Jewish Business'

Meyer’s Racket: James Gandolfini, who died at 51, wasn’t Jewish. But he played one on the big screeen.
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Meyer’s Racket: James Gandolfini, who died at 51, wasn’t Jewish. But he played one on the big screeen.

By Nathan Abrams (Haaretz)

Published June 20, 2013.
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At the time of his death, he had been working on an upcoming HBO series “Criminal Justice” and had two motion pictures due out next year.

“We’re all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family,” HBO said in a statement. “He was a special man, a great talent, but more importantly, a gentle and loving person who treated everyone, no matter their title or position, with equal respect.”

Gandolfini began his career as a stage actor in New York and went on to earn a Tony nomination for his role in the original 2009 Broadway cast of the black comedy “God of Carnage.”

He shared Tony Soprano’s Italian-American heritage and New Jersey roots, but the actor was known for a reserved demeanour off-camera and generally shied away from publicity.

In the HBO series, Gandolfini created a gangster different from any previously seen in American television or film. He was capable of killing enemies with his own hands but was prone to panic attacks. He loved his wife, Carmela, played by Edie Falco, and was a doting father, but he carried on a string of affairs.

He regularly saw a therapist, portrayed by Lorraine Bracco, to work out his anxiety problems and issues with his mother.

By the start of the show’s final season, Gandolfini suggested he was ready to move on to more gentle roles once his TV mobster days were over.

“I’m too tired to be a tough guy or any of that stuff anymore,” he said. “We pretty much used all that up in this show.”

CRITICAL ACCLAIM

The program, which earned Gandolfini three Emmy Awards as best lead actor in a drama series, was considered by many critics the finest drama to have aired on U.S. television.

The series was a major factor in establishing HBO, a pay-cable network once focused on presentations of feature films, as a powerhouse of original dramatic television and in shifting the kind of sophisticated storytelling once reserved for the big screen to TV.


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