Beloved actor and star of “The Sopranos” James Gandolfini died suddenly in Italy on Wednesday night of a suspected heart attack. The three-time Emmy Award winner was 51. In celebration of Gandolfini's life and work, take a look back at his career and some of his best moments on screen.
Beginning with his breakout appearance in a Broadway production of “On the Waterfront” in 1992, Gandolfini made a name for himself playing "tough guy" characters, frequently drawing on his background in New Jersey. His characters were routinely abrasive, but effective in their jobs. His roles in “Get Shorty,” “In the Loop” and “Zero Dark Thirty” all feature such characters.
Gandolfini's first big break in Hollywood came in Tony Scott's 1993 crime film "True Romance." In the first of many criminal roles, Gandolfini portrayed the mob hitman Virgil, and later claimed on “Inside the Actor’s Studio” that he based his portrayal of Virgil on an old friend who worked as a mob hitman.
In 1999, Gandolfini first took on the role that would make him a star in “The Sopranos.” As mob boss Tony Soprano, Gandolfini brought a relatable, human side to the show’s portrayal of the New Jersey underworld. Uniquely for the mob genre, “The Sopranos” featured Tony routinely undergoing therapy, allowing Gandolfini to showcase the character’s more valuable moments. Throughout the show’s six-season run, Gandolfini’s portrayal of Tony Soprano allowed audiences to empathize with the mob Don, no matter how monstrous Tony's actions became.
In addition to his work on TV and film, Gandolfini also returned to the stage on several occasions, including a role in the 2009 Tony Award-winning play "God of Carnage." Not content to simply work as an actor, Gandolfini has also served as an executive producer for the HBO documentaries “Alive Day: Home from Iraq,” about the return of injured Iraq war veterans, and “Wartorn: 1861-2010,” about the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder on the American military.
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Relive some of James Gandolfini's best scenes below.
“In the Loop”