Top Five James Gandolfini Performances

Just over a year ago on June 19th, cinema and television lost one of the all time acting powerhouses, James Gandolfini. His wide range of acting talent always brought a powerful presence to the screen, no matter how small the role. However, he will always be best remembered for his role as ‘on-the-edge’ mob boss, Tony Soprano. So with his last film appearance coming up in November in the form of crime thriller The Drop, we take a look back at, perhaps, Gandolfini’s five greatest roles:

5. Enough Said, 2011

His performance as the sweet love interest, Albert, was looking to be another string in Gandolfini’s bow; as he so often played violent criminals or bold law figures. Albert allowed him to show off his softer side and open up a more vulnerable character.  For Enough Said, he was nominated for an outstanding performance by a male supporting role, by the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards – and rightly so.

More romantic dramas might have emerged in Gandolfini’s future but even if it was just a little taste of what was to come, Enough Said was an important film in his career.

Here is a clip of Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Enough Said as they share a light moment out at dinner:  just showcasing Gandolfini’s understated comedy side.

4. In The Loop, 2009

This time he manages to take on Peter Capaldi’s tough politician character, Malcolm Tucker. Gandolfini plays Lt. Gen. George Miller, a peace loving general who is basically the complete polar opposite of Tony Soprano. The role also was completely different from what he was used to, as this was not an American film where the actors usually have to hit certain beats in the script and stick to the dialogue. In this case, it was a British filming team, who preferred to film scenes with improvisation, all adding up to the great scene of Gandolfini’s and Capaldi’s character having an exchange of rather fruitful words.

His performance showed the ability to adapt to improv, whilst also proving he can dish out a bit of dry British humour too.

Here is the clip of the improvised scene between the two actors.

3. Killing Them Softly, 2012

More akin to what we are used to with Gandolfini, playing an ageing hitman named Mickey who has resorted to the lowest kind of life: drinking and using whores. Gandolfini just makes this hitman so believable, as someone who is simply angry towards life, and is happy with just slopping around, letting the world go by. One role Gandolfini never really played was lazy characters. His roles are usually fierce personalities, where he can use very physical acting to dominate the screen; but the performance in this movie is all to do with Gandolfini’s strong words that complement his darker and brooding presence in Killing Them Softly.

It’s just a shame the film is so under-appreciated, because Gandolfini needs to be seen in this.

Here’s a clip of Gandolfini getting a visit from Brad Pitt’s character, who is also a hitman.

2. The Man Who Wasn’t There, 2001

It’s odd, because in this Coen Brothers’ noir picture, Gandolfini’s character – a department store big-wig called Big Dave Brewster – doesn’t even make it past the thirty minute mark. Most actors who only appeared for one third of the film will be gone and forgotten, but it’s the impression that Gandolfini leaves, that forces the viewer to remember such an under-rated performance.

After finding out he is being blackmailed by Billy Bob Thornton’s character, his character is killed off in an altercation between the two characters; but in those small scenes Gandolfini managed to portray a powerful man who was strong and confident. However, it was the case of Gandolfini’s eyes that made him such a terrific actor. You could see under the surface that his character was weak, scared and afraid of the threats ahead.

The performance just showed the complete range of Gandolfini’s ability, meaning that this was perhaps one of his very best, even though it didn’t last too long, sadly.

Here is a clip of Gandolfini as Big Dave inviting Thornton’s character, so he can talk about his wife sleeping with another man. Also there is an interview at the end about his character in the film.

1. The Sopranos, 1999 – 2007

Perhaps the biggest anti climax of any top five lists. Tony Soprano could hardly have been left out of this fine list, let alone not have been number one. It’s the role that made Gandolfini a household name; the role that made him feared by people going up to ask him for an autograph. I personally have never felt more convinced by an actor’s performance than Gandolfini’s in The Sopranos. It’s hard to think that this depressed, violent, and empathy-stripped mob boss can be played by a softly spoken and kind man.

From the day Tony Soprano took a seat in Dr Melfi’s chair, we as viewers were capsulated as we watched Tony Soprano’s life unfold into one of TV great shows.

Here is a clip of Gandolfini really displaying why he was nominated for so many Golden Globes and why we fear him so much as the struggling “family man” mob boss.

It’s nearly the end of a tremendous career, it’s weird to think he started acting way into his twenties, but thank goodness we got to see his best years. We should also never forget the tremendous and touching documentaries he made, as he helped many returning soldiers from Iraq suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Let’s just hope The Drop, releasing in November this year, will be a great exit for Mr. Gandolfini.

Check out the trailer for The Drop below.