Los Angeles, CA
I thought it was a hoax.
Anytime I see a "RIP" tweet on Twitter, I assume it's a hoax until told otherwise. But I kept seeing it. From reputable sources. I contacted a trustworthy sources -- I know a guy affiliated with the obituary section of a major newspaper. When he mentioned that James Gandolfini's agent confirmed the news... I knew it was legit.
In college, we watched True Romance two or three times day. That was the first thing I ever saw Gandolfini act in and although it was a small role, he was in one of the craziest scenes in the film. And it's a violent fucking movie too. That hit-man character is what I imagine a young Tony Soprano was like.
When I was working in Monte Carlo for the first time covering a poker tournament, I met a French reporter, who told me he enjoyed my poker blog. We got around to talking and I found out he loved The Sopranos. His English was great, especially the slang, and I quickly found out he would translate episodes of The Sopranos and his friend would re-upload them for French fans. Unreal, I thought.
Now you know how I met Benjo the first time. We originally bonded over The Sopranos. I told him I was born in New Jersey and even showed him my passport which lists my origin of birth. A coupe of years later, he translated one of my books.
The Sopranos ended and a lot of people were pissed off. Similar outrage to the ending of Seinfeld or Lost. Some fans want their art spoon fed to them. Others want a nice, neat, clean happy ending wrapped up in a bow. While others will never like a popular show's ending because it's an ending and finally over. It's like breaking up.
I loved the ending of The Sopranos because it's how David Chase wanted to end it. Plus, I got it right away. I'm lucky in that I didn't have to struggle for years figuring out what the fuck happened. I'm completely open to different interpretations of what other people think happened, but nothing can ever top the moment the show actually ended. Fade to black. No music. Nothing. Nothingness.
If you're lost on the ending of The Sopranos, this dude went into in depth detail about it. Check out The Sopranos: Definitive Explanation of The End, and you'll learn the importance of the guy in the Members Only jacket.
The actor who played Tony Soprano was filled with anger and fear and insecurity just like the rest of it. He landed a role of a lifetime, a role that you could not imagine anyone else playing. He was in the right place at the right time.
There's a tiny tragedy involving his success as Tony Soprano. Gandolfini was chasing a ghost the rest of his career. No matter how much he tried to change the way he looked in a role, or the way he acted, it was nearly impossible to get Tony Soprano out of your head. It's not easy to get famous for something knowing that no matter how hard you work the rest of your life, you will never be able to top that performance. Plus, you have to overcome a tremendous obstacle because the public pigeon-holed you in that specific role and they will never allow you to evolve and soak up something else. You're stuck.
Gandolfini was trapped in time. It's like try to swim up a waterfall, and in Gandolfini's case, it was Niagara Falls. It's devastating to be an artist and creative person trapped in someone else's (the public and casting directors) rigid expectations.
I re-watched this episode of Inside the Actors studio. Pay closer attention to Gandolfini's body expressions, which abruptly change depending on the subject matter.