Yes, Tony Soprano did terrible things. But it’s a credit to Gandolfini’s mastery that he was able to provide the viewer with enough empathy to latch on to, just as he was about to drag us all into the darkest corners of the character’s psyche. No show had done so cinematically before, and it’s totally open to debate if any will ever reach such heights again. If Tony had been miscast, there’s no way “The Sopranos” would have lasted 86 episodes and refashioned the tube in its own image. Instead, Gandolfini annihilated the role for eight years.
I won’t be able to attend Gandolfini’s funeral tomorrow at Episcopal Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in Morningside Heights, New York City. However, I offer my deepest condolences to his friends and family, especially his wife and children. I also hope they forgive me for zeroing in just one aspect of what I’m sure was a rich and varied existence. Gandolfini produced other television projects and was a prolific character actor who starred in dozens of films. Even if his work in the films “True Romance” and “The Man Who Wasn’t There” had been his only acting credits, he still would have died a legend.
But as comedian Dana Carvey wrote on his Twitter feed in reaction to the news: “In a thousand thousand years humans will watch and be moved by James Gandolfini’s brilliant work of art ‘Tony Soprano.’” I can’t say it much better than that.
Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at twitter.com/robaburg.