With the recent passing of “The Sopranos” star James Gandolfini, evidence surfaced that the actor”s former decisions almost lead to the downfall of the hit HBO mob series.
In the July 2013 issue of GQ magazine, correspondent Brett Martin chatted about the 51-year-old star”s infamous disappearance and even revealed Mr. Gandolfini”s struggles with fame.
Check out a few highlights from Mr. Martin”s article below. For more, be sure to visit GQ!
On Mr. Gandolfini”s influence in television:
“It is not too much of a stretch to say that if Gandolfini had not gotten the role of Tony Soprano- as, by all rights of all television rules ever written, he shouldn”t have – and attacked it with such gusto, television would not be what it is today. Without an actor capable of finding Tony”s melancholy, his soulfulness, his absurdity and his rage, the era of TV antiheroes may never have found its foothold. In interviews, which he did his very best to avoid, the actor would often fall back on some versions of “I”m just a dumb, fat guy from Jersey.” “That”s bulls***,” David Chase once told me, with an affectionate chuckle. “Jim knows damn well what he”s doing. He knows.””
On defending Mr. Gandolfini”s outrageous behavior:
“In papers related to a divorce filing at the end of 2002, Gandolfini”s wife described increasingly serious issues with drugs and alcohol, as well as arguments during which the actor would repeatedly punch himself int he face out of frustration. To anybody who had witnessed the actor”s self-directed rage as he struggled to remember lines in front of the camera – he would berate himself in disgust, curse, smack the back of his own head. It was a plausible scenario.”
On the disappearance that almost ended “The Sopranos”:
“It did not help that the naturally shy Gandolfini was suddenly one of the most recognizable men in Americaespecially in New York and New Jersey, where the show filmed and where the sight of him walking down the street with, say, a cigar was guaranteed to seed confusion in those already inclined to shout the names of fictional characters at real human beings. Unlike Falco, who could slip off Carmelas French-tipped nails, throw on a baseball cap, and disappear in a crowd, Gandolfinisix feet tall, upwards of 250 poundshad no place to hide. All of which had begun to take its toll. By the winter of 2002, Gandolfinis sudden refusals to work had become a semi-regular occurrence. His fits were passive-aggressive: He would claim to be sick, refuse to leave his TriBeCa apartment, or simply not show up. The next day, inevitably, he would feel so wretched about his behavior and the massive logistic disruptions it had causedakin to turning an aircraft carrier on a dimethat he would treat cast and crew to extravagant gifts. It had come to be understood by all involved as part of the price of doing business, the trade-off for getting the remarkably intense, fully inhabited Tony Soprano that Gandolfini offered. So when the actor failed to show up for a 6 p.m. call at Westchester County Airport to shoot the final appearance of the character Furio Giunta, a night shoot involving a helicopter, few panicked. Over the next twelve hours, it would become clear that this time was different. This time, Gandolfini was just gone.”
On the constant worries for Mr. Gandolfini:
“Back in those tense winter days of 2002, long before “The Sopranos”” legacy was set in stone, Gandolfini”s absence was becoming increasingly worrisome. The production team had already performed all the acrobatics it could, shooting those few scenes that could be done without its star. The whole operation had been nervously treading water for days; may began to expect the worse – that the pressure, the substances, and the emotional turmoil had pushed Gandolfini over the end. Sooner or later, the press, hungry for “The Sopranos” gossip at the best of times, would get hold of the story, and the upper echelon of producers at Silvercup and at HBO began to prepare a damage control strategy. Then, on day four, the main number in the show”s production office rang. It was Gandolfini”s calling, from a beauty salon in Brooklyn. To the surprise of the owner, the actor had wandered in off the street, asking to use the phone. He called the only number he could remember, and asked the production assistant who answered to put someone on who could sent a car to take him home.”