James John Gandolfini, Jr. September 18, 1961 – June 19, 2013 was an American actor best known for his role in The Sopranos as Tony Soprano, a troubled crime boss struggling to balance his family life and career in the Mafia.
Gandolfini garnered enormous praise for this portrayal, winning three Emmy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards and two Golden Globes for Best Actor – Drama Series as well as two further SAG Awards as a member of the series’ ensemble. Gandolfini’s other roles include the woman-beating Mob henchman Virgil in True Romance, enforcer/stuntman Bear in Get Shorty, and the impulsive Wild Thing Carol in Where the Wild Things Are.
He grew up in Park Ridge, New Jersey and graduated from Park Ridge High School in 1979, where he played basketball, acted in school plays, and was awarded the title “Class Flirt” in his senior yearbook. He attained a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication studies from Rutgers University in 1982, where he worked as a bouncer at an on-campus pub. He also worked as a bartender and club manager in Manhattan prior to his acting career.
He was introduced to acting as a young man living in New York City, when he accompanied friend Roger Bart to a Meisner technique acting class, where he studied for two years under Kathryn Gately at The Gately Poole Conservatory.
He was executive producer of the HBO film about Ernest Hemingway and his relationship with Martha Gellhorn, titled Hemingway & Gellhorn (2012), starring Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman. Gandolfini reunited with The Sopranos creator David Chase for Not Fade Away (2012), a music-driven production set in 1960s New Jersey, and the latter’s feature film debut.
According to Gandolfini’s will dated December 19, 2012 and filed July 2, 2013 in Manhattan Surrogate’s Court, the actor left a huge portion of his estimated $70 million estate to his son Michael, with his daughter Liliana, widow, sisters, and nieces also sharing in the inheritance.