When the news hit last
Friday that actor James Gandolfini had died in Rome, I was stunned. The initial
news reports (later confirmed by the autopsy) indicated a heart attack,
otherwise known as death from a natural cause.
I had noticed James Gandolfini even before the
popular HBO show, "The Sopranos". It was a little crime film called
True Romance, the first produced script for a young Quentin Tarantino. A small
role and a memorable performance. I noticed Gandolfini was a guy who had a
presence on the screen. He was special.
James Gandolfini was lucky to get something few
actors ever get: a role of a lifetime.
He became Tony Soprano, the head of a modern New
Jersey crime family. But such a gift can also come with baggage. Some actors
never escape these roles.
I admit it. After the Sopranos, it was hard at
first for me to see Gandolfini as anyone other than Tony Soprano. But
eventually I did. And when he later played the CIA Director in Zero Dark
Thirty, Tony Soprano was nowhere in sight.
Since his death, I have been heartened by
statements from those who knew him. James or "Jimmy" as he was known
to friends was everything you wanted him to be: kind, warm, generous, a great
Dad and a wonderful caring friend to his friends. Nothing like Tony Soprano.
That means Jimmy was a pretty damn good actor.
Gandolfini was only 51 when he died. He had a lot
of great roles ahead of him, and a lot of Dad and husband time left too. Our
hearts go out to his two young kids and his family. He will be missed.
I don't know that I have a magic answer on how to
process this grief. And it's really grief. Look, I know Gandolfini was not
someone I knew as a friend or close family member, but thanks to the media, I
"knew" James Gandolfini as the characters he played. In that sense,
he was real to me. And his death troubled me.
What to do about that?
I'm left with this, the obvious: make each day
count. Easy to say. Harder to do.
When you really need to remember this is when
the chips are down. Maybe you're stuck in a miserable job or a soul-draining
relationship and that's all you can see in front of you
Do what the guy in the exercise video says, start
by getting out of your head.
During the course of a day find a way to go out of
your way to do something good for someone else. Try to find a way to make a
difference in someone else's life. It doesn't have to be big. Make it small;
but make it count. And in that way, while others may hopefully benefit, you'll
find out that in some small way, you benefit too. Do it because you can.
Above is one of the last known photos of James
Gandolfini. He was doing it his way, out with his thirteen year old son, eating
in an outdoor Rome restaurant. No body guards. No entourage. Just a Dad and his
son eating dinner.