It was reported today that actor James Gandolfini has just died. As I did a little tribute to Jean Stapleton, I thought it worth mentioning Gandolfini as well. Admittedly, my first thought was, "Was it a heart attack?" and that seems to be the case. For a big guy to die suddenly, it seemed the likeliest cause.
Gandolfini is best known to audiences as Tony Soprano, though he was also a very versatile actor who could do comedy as well as intense drama. He managed to avoid extreme type-casting, playing nice guys as well as tough guys; heroes with a hard edge and sympathetic villains. And he made that one Christmas movie with Ben Affleck, but that's all we'll say about that one.
I was never a regular viewer of The Sopranos, though I admire his work. So instead, I thought I would take this opportunity to promote one of my favorite James Gandolfini roles: the under-appreciated film The Last Castle. This movie came out when I was in college, and I actually saw it in the theater. I can't remember if it was based on a trailer or if I just went in totally blind. Either way, I had little to go on and quite enjoyed it. It's a movie that doesn't get talked about and maybe once in a while shows up on basic cable. I'm not saying it's some masterwork of cinema, but I thought it was pretty good.
The movie stars Robert Redford as a man who is sent to a military prison run by James Gandolfini's character. Redford plans an escape, and it's a battle of wills between him and Gandolfini. I really wish the movie had done better or were remembered more. There's this great dramatic moment involving flying a flag upside-down. And while Redford is obviously the protagonist here, it's Gandolfini that really made the movie for me. If you've never seen it, I think it's definitely worth checking out. It's not quite The Shawshank Redemption, and it won't shatter the foundations of cinema or anything, but it'll make for a nice movie night.
As the summer heat rolls around, I encourage you to seek out other James Gandolfini performances and see how much more than Tony Soprano he was. Ultimately, it's the work that will live on, and I think we honor the legacy of great actors when we watch and enjoy them.
Cue "Don't Stop Believin"...
Cut to black.
Blood and Chrome
2 years ago