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The two actors, who starred together in Get Shorty and the remake of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, were actually family friends, and Travolta said he may be partly responsible for the late Sopranos star’s success.
“My father sold tires to his father,” Travolta said.
“I was his inspiration to get into the business,” he added. “He would see pictures of me on the wall from movies and he decided that he wanted to be an actor.”
Gandolfini, 51, passed away Wednesday, June 19, in Italy.
Travolta said he will look after Gandolfini’s family, including his teenage son, Michael, wife, Deborah Lin, and eight-month-old daughter, Liliana.
“My goal is to make sure that his family is OK,” Travolta said. “His little boy, I watched him grow up, and his brand new little girl. We’ll just make sure they’re taken care of. That’s the whole idea.”
In fact, Gandolfini was there for Travolta’s family after his son Jett died unexpectedly of a seizure.
“James went out of his way to come to Florida and he would not leave Florida until I was OK, or he felt that I would be fine,” Travolta recalled. “After a week, I said, ‘Jim you can really, you can, you know, we’ll be fine. I’ve got a lot of support here.’ But the idea that in our profession someone would go out of their way and not want to leave you until he felt you were OK, that’s the kind of soul that James Gandolfini was.”
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