James Gandolfini Remembered For Remarkable Career
James Gandolfini's role as New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano was so iconic, the front page of today's New York Daily News mourns his death with the simple words, "Tony's Dead."
After six seasons of mob hits and out-of-control temper trantrums, it all ended in 2007 with that controversial and gut-wrenching final scene in a New Jersey ice cream parlor.
The ambiguous ending, the shot cut to black, then nothing caused an uproar. "Tony And Gang Whack Fans," blared the New York Post.
INSIDE EDITION's Les Trent went to Holsten's Ice Cream Parlor in Bloomfield, New Jersey where that classic last scene was shot.
Tony Soprano sat in a booth with his family. Journey played on the juke box. Today, the New Jersey Star Ledger headline reads: "Sopranos Star, Jersey Icon Dies."
People are remembering not just Tony Soprano, but the man James Gandolfini.
Gandolfini's big break came in 1993, when he played a hit man in Quentin Tarantino's True Romance. He played another tough guy in Get Shorty with John Travolta.
Travolta spoke out this morning on Good Morning America, saying, "My father sold tires to his father. I was his inspiration to get into the business. Who knew we would end up working together so much."
But it wasn't until 1999, when Gandolfini was 37 that he was transformed from character actor into star. Tony Soprano was the hard-living Jersey crime boss, but he was also much more.
TV Guide's Stephen Battaglio told INSIDE EDITION, "Gandolfini was really, a virtual unknown when he came onto the series. It made him an instant star. People connected with Tony Soprano."
The role brought him a shower of accolades. Three Emmys, three Screen Actors Guild awards and a Golden Globe.
Edie Falco, who played his long suffering wife Carmella, issued this statement: "I am shocked and devastated by Jim's passing. I consider myself very lucky to have spent 10 years as his close colleague. The love between Tony and Carmela was one of the greatest I've ever known."
Dominic Chianese played Uncle Junior on the show. He told INSIDE EDITION, "I walked out onto the balcony of this beautiful plaza hotel in Paris saying, 'My God, it's like a movie here.' I turned to my right and there's this big guy on the balcony smoking a cigar in his underwear, and it was Jimmy Gandolfini."
He was a major cultural icon, but Gandolfini fiercely guarded his privacy. He once lost his temper with an autograph-hungry fan who apparently said something to tick him off.
"Gandolfini was never completely comfortable with the fame that he had from starring on The Sopranos," said Battaglio.
Gandolfini's last interview was just last week at an event in New York with reporter Chance Spiessbach.
Spiessback told INSIDE EDITION, "He went into a corner and allowed the entire party to come up to him. Anyone from busboys to the most important people in the industry. He treated everyone like they were the most important person in the world."
Gandolfini was gracious, but he also stood his ground as usual.
Spiessback said, "He was in a festive, fun, great mood. You would never have seen this coming."
James Gandolfini—dead much too soon.