James Gandolfini Biography
James J. Gandolfini, Jr. is an American actor. He is best known for his role as Tony Soprano in the HBO TV series The Sopranos, about a troubled crime boss struggling to balance his family life and his career in the Mafia. Gandolfini's other roles include pornographer Eddie Poole in 8mm, woman-beating mob enforcer Virgil in the Quentin Tarantino-written thriller True Romance, a gay hitman in The Mexican, enforcer/stuntman Bear in Get Shorty, and a martinet military prison commander in The Last Castle. He also played James Goss in Yemar on the Disney Channel. In 2007, Gandolfini produced the HBO documentary Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq in which he interviewed 10 injured veterans from the Iraq War.
Gandolfini was born in Westwood, New Jersey. His mother, Santa, a high school lunch lady, was born in the U.S. and raised in Italy. His father, James Gandolfini, Sr., a native of Borgotaro, Italy, was a bricklayer, cement mason, and later the head custodian at Paramus Catholic High School. His parents were devout Catholics and spoke Italian at home. Gandolfini grew up in Park Ridge, New Jersey, and graduated from Park Ridge High School in 1979, where he played basketball and acted in school plays.
He was awarded the title "Class Flirt" in his senior yearbook. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Rutgers University, where he worked as a bouncer at an on-campus pub. Gandolfini also worked as a bartender and club manager before embarking on an acting career. Gandolfini was introduced to acting as a young man living in New York City when he accompanied a friend to an acting class. In 2003, Gandolfini appeared in a series of television commercials with Greg Schiano promoting Rutgers football.
He performed in a 1992 Broadway production of On the Waterfront for six months. One of his better known film roles is that of Virgil, a brutal woman-beating mob enforcer, in the 1993 romantic thriller True Romance. In 1994 film Terminal Velocity, Gandolfini played Ben Pinkwater, a seemingly mild-mannered insurance man who turns out to be a violent Russian mobster.
He also appeared in The Juror as a mob enforcer with a conscience. In Get Shorty he appeared as a bearded ex-stuntman with a Southern accent. He played the mayor of New York in the 2009 remake of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. James Gandolfini returned to HBO in 2007 as the Executive Producer of the Emmy nominated documentary special Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq, his first project after “The Sopranos” – and the first production for his company Attaboy Films which was opened in 2006 with producing partner Alexandra Ryan.
He returned to the stage in 2009, appearing in Broadway's God of Carnage with Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis and Jeff Daniels.
Gandolfini's most acclaimed role to date is that of Tony Soprano, the Mafia boss and family man in the multi-award-winning HBO series The Sopranos, which debuted in 1999. He has won three Emmys for "Best Actor in a Drama" for his depiction of New Jersey Mafia boss Tony Soprano, an aging baby boomer who constantly questions his own identity and purpose. Gandolfini eventually garnered $1,000,000 per episode in the series. Entertainment Weekly recently listed him as the 42nd Greatest TV Icon of All Time for playing Tony Soprano.
Alive Day: Home from Iraq
In 2007, Gandolfini produced a documentary with HBO focused on injured Iraq veterans and their devotion to America, while surveying the physical and emotional costs of war. Ten surviving soldiers were interviewed by Gandolfini, who revealed their thoughts on the challenges which they face integrating back into society and family life. They also reflected on the memories of the day when they narrowly escaped death, and what life may have been like in other circumstances.
Gandolfini considers himself a pacifist and maintained reservations about continuing his portrayal of the violent mob boss. His sister, Johanna Antonacci, is the manager of the Family Division of the New Jersey Superior Court in Hackensack, New Jersey. Gandolfini is a fan of motorcycles and owns a Harley Davidson and a Vespa scooter. On May 4, 2006, Gandolfini was riding his Vespa when it was hit by a taxi, in traffic. He was forced to undergo knee surgery after the accident, postponing the filming of the final Sopranos episodes.
He keeps ties with his hometown of Park Ridge by supporting The Octoberwoman Foundation for Breast Cancer Research. He appears at their annual October banquet and often brings other Sopranos cast members to help Octoberwoman draw large crowds. He currently resides in New York City, and owns a lot on the Lake Manitoba Narrows, presumably to build a cottage.
On August 30, 2008, Gandolfini married his girlfriend, former model Deborah Lin, in her hometown of Honolulu, Hawaii, after dating her for two years. Gandolfini has one child with his ex-wife, Marcy Wudarski, from whom he was divorced in December 2002.