As testimony to the respect he commanded both on screen and off, the sudden death of James Gandolfini continues to dominate the news cycle today, with both tributes pouring in and new details on the actor’s final hours emerging. This morning, the Today show spoke to the manager of Rome’s Hotel Boscolo, who shared the sad details that Gandolfini was discovered collapsed in the bathroom by his 13-year-old son, Michael. TMZ reports that Michael was accompanying Gandolfini on a “guy’s trip” before Gandolfini attended the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily as a guest of honor. It was Michael who contacted the hotel staff, who immediately sent for an ambulance; after resuscitation attempts proved unsuccessful, Gandolfini was pronounced dead at 11 p.m., local time (5 p.m. ET). An autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow, though hospital officials believe it was “probably a natural cause of death, myocardial infarction," or heart attack.
Organizers of the Taormina festival announced plans to go ahead with the scheduled roundtable on Italian-Americans in cinema that Gandolfini was meant to participate in, while also transforming Saturday into a tribute that will include a video montage of many of Gandolfini’s best-known roles. HBO also immediately began paying its respects to the man who’d helped to transform its network into such a powerhouse of prestige drama. An airing of The Sopranos episode “Where’s Johnny?” that ran last night on HBO Signature came appended with the message, “HBO mourns the loss of James Gandolfini, a beloved member of the HBO family,” as will all Sopranos episodes that are scheduled to run in the near future.
Other tributes were offered by the many actors who knew and worked with Gandolfini, as well as the many more who simply admired him. Adding to David Chase’s statement yesterday, the members of Gandolfini’s Sopranos family have also weighed in, most of them collected here by TV Line. “He was a man of tremendous depth and sensitivity, with a kindness and generosity beyond words,” his on-screen wife Edie Falco said, in part. “The love between Tony and Carmela was one of the greatest I've ever known.” Gandolfini’s TV consigliere Steve Van Zandt added, “The world has lost one of the greatest actors of all time.” Many, many others have echoed those sentiments—everyone from Brad Pitt to Steve Carell, NJ Gov. Chris Christie to the band Journey.
Meanwhile, GQ has posted an excerpt from a now tragically timed article that appears in its July issue, “The Night Tony Soprano Disappeared,” in which Brett Martin looks at Gandolfini’s private struggles to bring the complex character to life—a struggle that frequently threatened to break him. It’s a fascinating (if obviously bittersweet, considering) exploration of the often-tense mood on the Sopranos set, of Gandolfini’s exhausting process and the toll it took on him—including problems with drugs and alcohol, “arguments during which the actor would repeatedly punch himself in the face out of frustration,” and, finally, the day when Gandolfini failed to report to the set, causing most of the cast and crew to fear he’d been pushed too far. It’s worth a read, if you want a less varnished glimpse at the man.
And finally, Gandolfini is being mourned in New Jersey, place of his birth and his eventual fictional reign, and a state that often expressed conflicted feelings about being so closely associated with The Sopranos. While collecting quotes from local residents (including this Tony Soprano-esque gem, “It's a tragedy. What are you gonna do?”), The Associated Press reports that “someone left a bag of uncooked ziti at the foot of the driveway” where Tony was so often seen fetching his morning paper. And as seen in this poignant photo (via Buzzfeed), one of the most understated, touching tributes to Gandolfini unfolded at Holsten’s, the Bloomfield ice cream parlor that was the site of The Sopranos’ last supper. As an estimated 300 to 400 customers dropped by yesterday to pay their respects, the restaurant blocked off the booth where the Soprano clan sat with a simple “Reserved” sign, acknowledging the place he’ll always have in its and our collective memory.
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