And it’s particular impressive considering that he’s pretty only remembered for one role. The reason — that I have heard countless times — is that Gandolfini was so convincing in his portrayal of Tony Soprano that it felt like the character was a real person.
Nothing against Gandolfini, but this was also the result of a unique casting decision — going with an actor who has average looks rather than someone who resembles the “Italian George Clooney,” as Gandolfini once put it.
Gandolfini’s untimely demise highlights that Hollywood actors are often way too attractive and/or young for the roles they play.
On its face I know this sounds a bit ridiculous, but consider how much different The Sopranos would have been if it was cast in the usual way where the actor who played Tony was tall, fit, and had a gorgeous full head of hair; Carmela played by an actress barely thirty years-old whose most recent work included the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue; and so on.
Tony was so relatable — despite being a sociopath mob boss — because he dealt with the proletariat issues of the day — aging parents, college, disappointing kids — and he actually looked the part. It was a combination of real issues and real looking people that gave the show and characters a sense of authenticity.
Think of it another way: I have a hard time relating to a character in a TV show or movie that is simply way too attractive for the plot. It’s not that I envy or dislike attractive people, but when the plot of a movie involves the female character never being able to meet Mr. Right, don’t cast Cameron Diaz in the role because I don’t believe for a minute she has that problem.
|Maybe a little more believable these days...|
In so many movies and TV shows there is an incongruity between the plot and the actors. To give a recent example, I just couldn’t get into Silver Linings Playbook because Jennifer Lawrence was too attractive for her part.
I didn’t buy that Bradley Cooper’s character would remain hung-up on his ex-wife while such an attractive woman was throwing herself at him — being aggressively pursued by Jennifer Lawrence is every man’s dream. I know that sounds shallow, but the movie would have been far more interesting and ultimately rewarding if Cooper’s ex-wife was smoking hot and Lawrence’s character a bit more average.
Just to prove that I’m not hung-up on looks, age is a big factor in this. As much as I love Star Trek, I cannot get behind the reboot because I don’t believe in any universe or alternate timeline kids would be running a starship, that you could go from cadet to captain.
Obviously young people are capable of brilliance, but there is a lot to be said of a character that looks old enough to have a lot of experience under their belt
And that was the genius of James Gandolfini’s — both the actor and the casting. You could just look at him and you instantly knew that Tony Soprano had a lot of baggage.