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This story first appeared in the July 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
He was a great friend. And that doesn’t happen very often in this business because we’re gypsies, we’re nomadic, we move on to the next thing. But that wasn’t the case. The four of us, from four completely different places, came together and jumped off the cliff, and that became God of Carnage. And it worked.
He was brave. He got the play done by saying, “I want to do this,” when he saw it in London. Otherwise, it doesn’t happen. But it was so different from what he was doing on The Sopranos. It’s the discipline of doing it eight times a week, with six weeks of rehearsal — all the discipline of theater. He wanted that. He was very organic, almost without technique; the less technique Jim used, the better he felt. The most unnerving thing for him was in some of those early previews — when we’re all trying to find it — the curtain would go up, and the four of us were sitting there. And it wasn’t star applause where the star comes out and they applaud. It was a cheer. It was a wave of appreciation from the audience. It was different. And I’m sitting there going, “They liked me, they like Marcia, they like Hope … but they love Jim.” And you could tell he was uncomfortable with it. After the show I said, “You OK?” And he said, “Yeah, I don’t know why they had to clap like that.” And I said: “Jimmy, they’re thanking you. You gave them 10 years of a character, and they want you to know how much they loved what you did. And they’re here tonight [to say], ‘Go ahead and do this other thing, we’re with you.’ ” And he was OK after that.
He never missed a show. You won’t read about that on Page Six. Jimmy had one speed, which was fifth gear. He lived his life like that. And he went at Tony Soprano like that. And he went at God of Carnage like that. And it was beautiful. He never took a show off. He never cruised. Carnage was him saying, “I want to be known as a good actor.” If you want to be known as a good actor, Broadway eight times a week, month after month after month — that’s where you prove it. And he did that. And that’s a very brave, courageous thing.
There’s a generosity in him that’s as big as New Jersey. And people don’t necessarily read about that, but you see that. You certainly see that in what he has done for the cast and crew of The Sopranos, what he would do for us. When we extended the Carnage run, he said, “Everybody gets paid the same.” And that happened. He didn’t have to do that. He was old school. He was De Niro, he was Hoffman, he was Redford. Back in the ’70s, they didn’t have conversations with people like you [reporters]. You didn’t go on Letterman, you didn’t go on Carson, you didn’t do any of that. He was of that school. He’d say: “Why do they have to know everything? Why do they have to know anything?” And he had a great point. If he was sitting here now, he’d go: “Hang up. You’re done. You’ve said too much.”
Read more tributes to Gandolfini below:
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