James Gandolfini was a great actor who would still be alive if not for his most notable role.
As of late I have been rewatching The Sopranos and digesting much of the discourse around the series I did not get to when it first aired and I was a young man still unable to get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Parts of it have not aged well, the main character is just as magnificent and mean as ever and man was the cost to his actor sad.
According to a new book by writer James Andrew Miller, Gandolfini had severe drinking and drug problems throughout the pioneering production. It has been known there were times he disappeared, and he also was one to mock his personal appearance, but the new book confirms executives at HBO back then worried he would not stay alive to the conclusion of the series. These concerns even lead to an intervention at home for the performer.
“When detailing the ‘disastrous’ intervention, Gandolfini entered the apartment where he found his loved ones waiting for him. In a flurry of expletives, the actor screamed, ‘Oh, f – – k this. F – – k all of you.’ The actor left the building after he dared [Former HBO chairperson Chris] Albrecht to fire him,” a New York Post article reads.
While Tony was fighting the war with associates in New York, Gandolfini was hitting himself in the face.
When Tony got to get away with killing Ralph Cifaretto, Gandolfini caused a wife to leave him due to his issues.
Being a pretend bad man can bring one a lot of things. There are awards, there are women, there is lots of money and a chance to build a legacy for millions to enjoy long after you are gone. However, demons should not come with the work and nor should they be ignored or brushed over by fans or executives for a buck or art.
Gandolfini deserved to have a shrink, HBO should have been willing to lose the show for his well-being and in the future, I hope we are all a little more wary about what we take from those on screens big, small and behind them. I would hate to see someone like Bryan Cranston in rehab, Heath Ledger should still be entertaining us today and it is horrifying an actor in the film Hereditary developed a form of post-traumatic stress disorder after the shoot.
Top image via Wes Candela Photography LLC