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8 great James Gandolfini performances
By Micah Mertes / World-Herald staff writer


The great American actor James Gandolfini died while on holiday in Rome Wednesday. He was 51.

While of course best known for his role as the brutal but sensitive mobster Tony Soprano on HBO's “The Sopranos,” Gandolfini gave several memorable performances in a bevy of films pre- and post-“Sopranos.” He was undoubtedly one of the greatest actors of his generation to never get an Oscar nomination.

Here are a few of his career highlights.

Note: Some of the video clips have some violence and profanity in them. Watch at your own peril.

“Get Shorty” (1995)

After years of small but memorable roles as rapists and psychopaths in movies like “True Romance” and “The Last Boy Scout,” Gandolfini got to play a nice guy in “Get Shorty.” Sort of.

As the bodyguard/stuntman Bear, Gandolfini distills his appeal to its essence: a big, scary-looking dude who's really warm and cuddly underneath it all.



“A Civil Action” (1998)

Though this based-on-a-true-story legal thriller plays like a boring version of “Erin Brokovich,” Gandolfini's performance leaves a mark. He plays one of the community members helping wage a class-action lawsuit against the factories that polluted a town's water supply.



“The Sopranos” (1999-2007)

Probably one of the best and most iconic characters/performances pretty much ever. Amen.

Final scene of "The Sopranos." Spoilers. Well, not really.



“The Mexican” (2001) Another case of Gandolfini being the best thing about a so-so movie. “Mexican” stars Brad Pitt as a screw-up who runs errands for the mob and Julia Roberts as his long-suffering girlfriend. To ensure Pitt completes his latest task, the mob has a hit man named Leroy (Gandolfini) kidnap Roberts. But Leroy turns out to be a sensitive killer, full of good relationship advice.



“The Last Castle” (2001)

Gandolfini got to play the villain in this Robert Redford action drama. As the sneering warden of a maximum-security military prison, Gandolfini continually outplays one of the biggest movie stars of the 20th century.



“In the Loop” (2009)

A brutally funny performance in a brutally funny movie, Gandolfini scores laughs as a cynical lieutenant general trying to stop the U.S. invasion of an unspecified enemy country.



“Where the Wild Things Are” (2009)

Gandolfini lent his cuddly and stuffed-up voice to Spike Jonze's sweet, bizarre and kind of creepy re-imagining of Maurice Sendak's classic.



“Killing them Softly” (2012)

He only has two scenes in this nasty little crime thriller, but he makes them count. As a substance-abusing, severely depressed hit man, Gandolfini is Tony Soprano without the charm, his on-screen persona stripped of all warmth.

Contact the writer: Micah Mertes

micah.mertes@owh.com    |   402-444-3182    |  

Micah is an online editor for Omaha.com


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