Roger Bart: Why I Encouraged James Gandolfini to Pursue Acting
I was working at this restaurant managed by a friend of Jim’s. We would close up the restaurant and Jim would sit at the bar and we just became friends. The more that I got to know Jim, the more I thought, “New Jersey needs its own Gene Hackman.” He has that wonderful face and size. So I asked him whether or not he’d ever considered being an actor. And his response was no. I kind of bugged him about it over the course of that year and a half or so where we were both 22 or 23. I finally left a message for him saying, “You should do this.” And I placed a call to this wonderful teacher, Kathryn Gately, “There’s this really great guy who I think you might want to meet.”
What I really couldn’t fathom was how gifted the guy would be. I knew him when he was sort of a regular guy. We saw each other over the years after that a handful of times and the first thing out of his mouth to me was, “You’re the one to blame.” But I think it’s obvious that he sort of met me at a time where I kind of kicked him in a direction.
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