By: Judy Dick
Robbed of a fulfilling life, James Gandolfini died having suffered a heart attack at the age of 51 in Rome on June 19, 2013. Born in Westwood, New Jersey, United States to Italian immigrants, his mother possessed a deep Italian ancestry, and his father, James Sr, who was awarded a Purple Heart in WWII, he was mostly familiar as Tony Soprano, the empathetic mob boss in the television series, "The Sopranos".
He grew up in Park Ridge, New Jersey where he enjoyed school sport and joined school plays in which he practiced his niche. He was a university graduate in 1983 who came away from his studies with a Bachelors Degree in communications. To support himself, he worked as a bouncer at a pub on campus and also as a bartender and club manager. Having been introduced to a Meisner technique acting class, he studied there for the next couple of years and them became infatuated with the craft.
In 1992 he secured a role in a Broadway version of A Street car Named Desire after which he got caught up in the romance of the stage and acquired small parts in films like True Romance in 1993 wherein his character gets to fall in love with a prostitute and they have the mob after them when they decide to go to California, Crimson Tide in 1995 and Lonely Hearts in 2006. It was with this theme he attracted similar parts for a while and continued to be cast as dangerous tough guys in films and went on to make over forty five movies in total. His most successful side to his career remained however, whilst he was playing Tony Soprano. The series became an all time global hit and sky-rocketed Gandolfini into the world of fame. After six successful seasons, the Sopranos called it quits in 2007.
He was awarded the Golden Globe Award for Lead Actor in a TV drama, The Sopranos' for the 1999 season and won an Emmy in 2000 for the second season. He claimed victory for his supporting role in The Mexican wherein he glowed in the lime light and later secured his third Emmy nomination for The Man Who Wasn't There (2001).
Passionate about Breast Cancer Research, he attended his home town's banquet each year and was often flanked by cast members of the Sopranos, where he managed to draw in large crowds to support the cause. But his self esteem was a cause for concern when he would often be heard telling an interviewer that he was 'just some dumb fat guy from Jersey.' It was never made clear if this was the way he truly saw himself, but with similar comments, it was assumed he did.
Gandolfini became a film fixture and continued on with feature films, like The Mexican which starred Brad Pitt alongside Julia Roberts among many others that gave him a wide range of character debuts. Gandolfini had returned to Broadway in 2009 so pursue his passion and began interviewing disabled Iraq War veterans in "Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq". It was not long thereafter and much too young to die at fifty one, he left behind a son, Michael who was born in 2000, whom he had with his former wife, Marcy Wudarski, and a daughter, Liliana who was born two years later to his current wife, Deborah Lin whom he married in Honolulu, Hawaii.