As Tony Soprano, the amoral, overbearing New Jersey mob boss with issues, James Gandolfini demonstrated his enormous acting talent, ranging from ruthless killer to shivering bowl of emotional Jell-O, sometimes in one episode.
Tony could be a charming dining companion one minute and viciously beat some poor mook with a pool cue the next, his family of hit men, thieves and miscreants living in abject terror and undying love of their capo de capo.
"This is the man I'm going to hell for," muttered Christopher Moltisanti, played by Michael Imperiale, one of The Soprano's outstanding cast members.
Over the last decade, the New Jersey born and bred Jim Gandolfini enjoyed tremendous success on the stage and screen in addition to television. He was nominated for a Tony Award for his role in the Broadway comedy "God of Carnage" and played Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in last year's Oscar-nominated film, "Zero Dark Thirty."
So his death last week at age 51 while vacationing in Italy came as a shock, for Gandolfini seemed to be just hitting his stride.
One project that did not receive as much public notice as it should have was Gandolfini's documentary, "Alive Day Memories, Home From Iraq," in which the actor interviewed American servicemen and women wounded in battle about their injuries, their mental health and their hopes and dreams. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8j08fvUk67U
Aired on HBO, "Alive Day" is a startling, sometimes shocking look at what our wounded warriors endured and what they are enduring as they re-enter civilian life. Some are missing limbs while others suffer post traumatic stress disorder. All of these young men and women volunteered to serve and deserve whatever it takes to help them assimilate and thrive in their post-war lives, which is the point of Gandolfini's film.
His friends and family remember Jim Gandolfini as a quiet, shy and generous man who, unlike a lot of stars, used his international celebrity for the greater good.