James Gandolfini, who passed away yesterday in Rome from a suspected heart attack, was best known as Tony Soprano, the morally corrupt but emotionally vulnerable New Jersey mobster and family man who propelled HBO’s The Sopranos to artistic and popular excellence from 1999 to 2007. But before, during, and after his reign as TV’s most mesmerizing dramatic actor, Gandolfini appeared in several high-profile movies, opposite actors like John Travolta, Denzel Washington, Robert Redford, and Brad Pitt.
Pitt co-starred with Gandolfini three times, in 1993’s True Romance, 2001’s The Mexican and last year’s Killing Them Softly, in which both men played hit-men at various stages of their careers. “He’s the man,” Pitt said back in 2001, when he and Julia Roberts tangled with Gandolfini’s gay hit-man at the height of the actor’s Sopranos‘ popularity. “He’s one of those great actors who finds meaning in every line. I love watching him work.”
The World War Z star released a statement about his colleague:
“I admire Jimmy as a ferocious actor, a gentle soul and a genuinely funny man. I am fortunate to have sat across the table from him and am gutted by this loss. I wish his family strength and some semblance of peace.”
Gandolfini had been reluctant to play another mob character in Killing Them Softly, but he was finally won over by what the character symbolized. “I started thinking, maybe, I’ve done a bunch of these guys and this is kind of the final nail in the coffin,” Gandolfini told ABC News in November. “This is where you are at the end.”