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by Indiewire
June 20, 2013 3:29 PM
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Remembering James Gandolfini: 10 Great Roles

When James Gandolfini passed away yesterday at the age of 51, he left behind a storied acting career dominated by an iconic TV role but also including plenty of notable films under great directors like Spike Jonze and the Coen brothers. In honor of Gandolfini's work on the small and big screens, we highlighted 10 parts that demonstrated his talent and incredible presence. He'll be missed.

Tony Sopranos, "The Sopranos" (1999-2007)

Tony Soprano is one of the greatest television characters of all time -- one really made for the small screen and the hours it allowed us to spend with him, getting to know him and his family, his moments of sentimentality and his frightening side. Gandolfini had played gangsters before his defining HBO role, but Tony was different -- Tony we knew. He wasn't just a New Jersey thug who'd risen up the ranks, he was a creature of deep complexity, one who was fascinating while always challenging our sympathy and impulses to align with him as viewers. It was the role of a lifetime, not just in what it offered to the actor in it, but because the sense of a whole life is what Gandolfini gave us, from Tony's feeding the ducks to his murdering a family member. [Alison Willmore]


Big Dave Brewster, "The Man Who Wasn't There" (2001)

Gandolifini's practically trademarked ability to transition from terrifying heavy to tear-soaked softie is on full display in the Coen brothers' largely forgotten black and white noir crime drama. As Big Dave Brewster, a money-scamming adulterer with a violent streak, Gandolfini managed to find the heart in a character who easily could've been a one-dimensional antagonist. Though the film didn't make much of an impression at the box office, Gandolfini’s quick supporting turn certainly left its mark on fans. [Ben Travers]


Mickey, "Killing Them Softly" (2012)

James Gandolfini doesn't come in till midway through the Brad Pitt-led hitman noir "Killing Them Softly," but in his few standout scenes he manages to steal the film from its leading man thanks to a turn that's frightening, complex and strangely moving -- in a way only he could pull off. Unlike Pitt's cold, practical gangster, Gandolfini's is a frayed mess, verbally abusing waitstaff and call girls in one scene, and sobbing in the next when his wife files for divorce, a man broken down by and no longer able to keep up with the endless demands of capitalism crime. [Nigel Smith]


Lt. Gen. George Miller, "In the Loop" (2009)

The only character who can stand up to apoplectic bundle of foul-mouthed fury Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) in Armando Iannucci's political satire is Gandolfini's Defense Secretary Military Assistant. Gandolfini imbued the character with self-created air of seen-it-all machismo that made his big clash with Tucker, in which the pair attempt to cut each other to pieces in a quiet conversation made up of escalating insults, so intensely enjoyable. [AW]


Nick Murder, "Romance & Cigarettes" (2005)

Gandolfini sported a tough guy name in this quirky musical from John Turturro, but his character was actually a blue collar romantic, a Queens iron worker whose long marriage to Kitty (Susan Sarandon) is endangered when he ends up having an affair. The turning of the characters to songs to express their emotions reaches an early high point when Gandolfini steps out of his house and draws the neighborhood into a rendition of Engelbert Humperdinck's "A Man Without Love." [AW]


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4 Comments

  • Johnny | June 21, 2013 7:20 PMReply

    I thought he was pretty good in The Last Castle

  • elan | June 21, 2013 12:43 PMReply

    First...you don't get to complain about spoilers years after the show goes off the air.

    Second...how could you not include his role as Bear in Get Shorty?

  • Duddi | June 20, 2013 9:02 PMReply

    Great picks !!! Congrats on the article.

  • Diego | June 20, 2013 5:01 PMReply

    PLEASE put a Spoiler Alert on the Sopranos bit,
    I've just finished the fourth season for god's sake!
    THANK YOU INDIEWIRE!