For those of us who followed The Sopranos through 86 episodes from 1999 to 2007, news that James Gandolfini has died at the cruelly young age of 51 is sad indeed. The quality of the writing in that series was matched by acting of the highest order, not least from Gandolfini who managed to portray a violent, bullying, murderous, vulgar, serial adulterer, whilst at the same time eliciting sympathy and understanding from the audience. At its best, The Sopranos came close to being Shakespearian.
Now a Guardian journalist has done a tremendous job of sifting through a multitude of YouTube clips to find over a dozen examples of classic Gandolfini scenes from the 86 episodes. You can hear Tony Soprano remarking, ‘They really pay you for doing this?’
And how about this brilliant duel between James Gandolfini and Peter Capaldi from In the Loop, the big screen outing for The Thick of It?
The combination of great writing and acting was there right from the off: we knew from the pilot episode that The Sopranos was going to amount to a lot more than just the story of a Mafia family when Tony was moved by seeing wild ducks in his swimming pool and – unheard of for a Mafia boss – he went to a psychiatrist to confront his struggle with depression. Real.
Tony Soprano: You know where I was yesterday when you called?… I was outside a whorehouse, while a guy that works for me was inside beating the shit out of a guy that owes me money. Broke his arm. Put a bullet in his kneecap.
Dr Jennifer Melfi: How’d that make you feel?
Tony Soprano Sr.: Wished it was me in there.
Dr Jennifer Melfi: Giving the beating or taking it?
Dr Jennifer Melfi: Are you still taking the lithium?
Tony Soprano Sr.: Lithium, Prozac. When’s it gonna end?
Dr Jennifer Melfi: We’re trying to give a jolt to your system. Give it a… a little kick-start.
Tony Soprano Sr.: Why don’t you kick me in the fuckin’ head?
Dr Jennifer Melfi: I know what you’re going through must be painful.
Tony Soprano Sr.: This isn’t painful. Getting shot is painful. Getting stabbed in the ribs is painful. This shit isn’t painful. It’s empty… dead.
(The dean of a college that Meadow is applying to is asking Tony for a $10,000 donation)
Carmela Soprano: I think you should pay him, Tony.
Tony Soprano Sr.: No fucking way!
Carmela Soprano: What, your daughter’s future isn’t worth 10,000 dollars?
Tony Soprano Sr.: That’s not it. That motherfucker’s full of shit. He’s shaking me down.
Carmela Soprano: No, he’s not.
Tony Soprano Sr.: Oh, yeah? Who knows more about extortion, me or you?
Woke up this mornin’
Got yourself a gun
Mama always said you’d be the chosen one
She said, ‘You’re one in a million
You got to burn to shine’
The Guardian’s obituary of James Gandolfini is here.