'The Drop' Star James Gandolfini Remembered at NYC Premiere of Last Film

Tom Hardy Noomi Rapace The Drop Premiere P 2014
Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Tom Hardy Noomi Rapace The Drop Premiere P 2014

Said co-star Michael Aronov: "He was definitely the most un-disappointing celebrity I've met in my life"

"I am going to call a lot of names tonight, but there is one person that we all know…if we call his name he will not show up," director Michael Roskam told the audience at the premiere of The Drop, held at New York City's Landmark Sunshine Cinema on Monday night. The Tom Hardy-starring character-driven crime drama — set in a Brooklyn bar used by Chechen mobsters as a temporary "drop spot" for dirty cash — marks James Gandolfini's last onscreen appearance, which made the premiere bittersweet.

"He was amazing at showing how to be vulnerable," Roskam told The Hollywood Reporter of the late actor, who died in June 2013 of cardiac arrest. "As all actors will tell you, it's scary to act, because you are opening up emotionally. But James was amazing at it — the way that he did it was a blessing. I will always be grateful."

First-time screenwriter Dennis Lehane (author of Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone and Shutter Island) stretched his short story, Animal Rescue, to pen the script. Despite his intimate connection with the source material, Lehane didn't have strong opinions on casting, except for one character: Marv, an embittered gambling addict who loses ownership of the bar he runs with his cousin Bob (Hardy) and tries to regain some semblance of power by engineering a holdup at drop night. "The only time I was adamant, vehement, was about the casting of James Gandolfini," he said of the Sopranos anchor. "That was the one actor I really wanted. There are very few actors who play urban with that depth of knowledge — you can tell he comes from that world. He played it beautifully."

The plot also traces the repercussions of Marv's botched robbery, which unleashes the wrath of Chechen heavy Chovka, played by Michael Aronov. "The people who have the most power in this world are the ones who inhabit it without showcasing it…the quiet guys, the still guys, the slower guys who make everybody else move to their rhythm," he told THR.

The film also has a gentler side, namely the unlikely and fragile romance that develops between Bob and Nadia, played by Noomi Rapace. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo actress was drawn to Nadia's vulnerability. "She's just come out of a destructive relationship with her ex-boyfriend, and Tom's character has a very dark past," she explained. "They are caught up in extreme loneliness. I think they meet on a level where they don't judge each other. Whatever happens today is the only thing that matters. There is an almost naivete and innocence in their relationship that I really like."

Altogether, the premiere — which was attended by Gandolfini's family, including his son Michael was a celebration of the actor's immense skill. "The man has been an icon since his first role. Meeting him in person, getting to work with him and seeing what kind of partner he was in front of the camera and kind of man he was off camera, was a real highlight for me," Aronov said. "He was definitely the most un-disappointing celebrity I've met in my life."

"It's such a privilege — a bittersweet privilege — that this is James Gandolfini's last movie," producer Peter Chernin told the audience before the screening. "It's in some ways a love letter to him."

11:57 a.m. A previous version of this article misspelled Michael Aronov's name. THR regrets the error.