There are very few actors who captured the public imagination quite as James Gandolfini did. Through his unparalleled portrayal of Tony Soprano, Gandolfini managed to re-conceptualise the television medium and people finally started realising that television shows can be just as engaging, complex and beautiful as cinematic masterpieces.
Since Gandolfini ventured into uncharted territory during his time at The Sopranos, his nuanced rendition of the homicidal mob boss is often cited as the greatest performance in the history of television. Over the course of six seasons, Gandolfini painted a complete portrait of the character – perfectly capturing his violent outbursts as well as his vulnerabilities.
However, Gandolfini’s legacy extends beyond the monumental show and its impact on popular culture. He maintained a robust career in the domain of cinema as well, acting in projects such as True Romance and The Taking of Pelham 123. Although he passed away at the age of 51, Gandolfini delivered strong performances right until the end – especially in Enough Said.
At one point, Gandolfini was also supposed to join The Office as a replacement for Michael Scott after the departure of Steve Carell. Of course, many iconic actors were auditioned for the highly popular role but The Office star and writer B.J. Novak had only one icon he wanted to cast as the regional manager – James Gandolfini.
While recalling the details of the meeting and why it never happened, Novak revealed: “I was at the meeting with James Gandolfini where we tried to convince him to join the show. And he was a big comedy fan — his favourite movie was The Rocker starring Rainn Wilson, so he was shy and intrigued.”
It is definitely surprising that Gandolfini considered the 2008 comedy The Rocker to be his favourite film of all time. Starring the likes of Rainn Wilson and Emma Stone, it focuses on Wilson’s journey as a failed musician who sees his nephew’s band enjoying unprecedented success after one of their songs manages to go viral.
Novak felt that the character of Michael Scott was directly influenced by Gandolfini: “In fact, the way Michael Scott will say something very serious but mispronounce a word, I feel, is a direct descendent of the Tony Soprano sense of humour. So I thought he would have been an incredible replacement — I really, really wanted to work with him.”