“He was a genius. Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that. He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes. I remember telling him many times, ‘You don’t get it. You’re like Mozart.’ There would be silence at the other end of the phone.”
David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, reminiscing about the late James Gandolfini and how he embodied the character of Tony Soprano, hitfix.com
GH: It is difficult to even remember what television drama series were like before HBO’s The Sopranos. Yes, The Fugitive, St. Elsewhere and others enthralled and entertained – but The Sopranos grabbed me in a choke hold and made me think Tone, Carm, Paulie, Christopher, Meadow and Silvio were all real people. And Gandolfini’s Tony was the character that made everything work. What a great f-ing show.
“Tony Soprano was a monster, but an oddly relatable one. He struggled with his family, whether enduring the caustic disapproval of his mother or the misbehavior of his kids, and went to therapy to deal with panic attacks and a wide-ranging feeling of depression. But he also had no compunction about strangling a man to death while taking daughter Meadow on a college tour. He was vulnerable. He was charming. He was cruel and vindictive and angry and practically drowning in self-pity. And Gandolfini played every facet of that character beautifully.”
Alan Sepinwall, writer, hitfix.com
GH: I dug up some dialogue (below) from The Sopranos to rekindle some of that magic we all shared each Sunday evening as that familiar music blared (You woke up this morning, got yourself a gun…). We all road along with Tony as he cruised through Jersey to his big house in the burbs…
[about DVD players]
Tony Soprano: I hear there’s not as many titles available as on laser.
Brendan Filone: You know, there’s more coming, though.
Paulie ‘Walnuts’ Gualtieri: My internist told me the picture’s not that different from laser either, Tone.
Brendan Filone: But the sound, way improved.
Tony Soprano: Good. ‘Cause nothing beats popping up some Orville Redenbacher’s and listening to “Men in Black”.
“The Sopranos: College (#1.5)” (1999)
Meadow Soprano: Are you in the Mafia?
Tony Soprano: Am I in the what?
Meadow Soprano: Whatever you want to call it. Organized crime.
Tony Soprano: That’s total crap, who told you that?
Meadow Soprano: Dad, I’ve lived in the house all my life. I’ve seen the police come with warrants. I’ve seen you going out at three in the morning.
Tony Soprano: So you never seen Doc Cusamano going out at three in the morning on a call?
Meadow Soprano: Did the Cusamano kids ever find $50,000 in krugerrandts and a .45 automatic while they were hunting for Easter eggs?
Tony Soprano: [regarding Father Phil] What you guys do for twelve hours? Play, uh, “Name That Pope”?
Carmela Soprano: He gave me communion.
Tony Soprano: Oh, I bet he gave you communion.
Carmela Soprano: Excuse me?
Tony Soprano: Well, Carmela, the guy spends the night here with you and all he does is slip you a wafer?
Carmela Soprano: That’s verging on sacrilege.
Tony Soprano: Oh, I didn’t mean to verge.
Christopher Moltisanti: You ever think what a coincidence it is that Lou Gehrig died of Lou Gehrig’s disease?
“The Sopranos: Boca (#1.9)” (1999)
Carmela Soprano: Let’s just say your uncle has acquired quite a *taste* for her.
Tony Soprano: Uncle Jun gives head?
Carmela Soprano: World class.
Tony Soprano: The old man’s whistling through the wheat field?
Carmela Soprano: Don’t be disgusting!
Tony Soprano: Oh, he’s a Bushman of the Kalahari!
Carmela Soprano: [laughs] That’s why I don’t tell you anything ’cause you don’t know when to stop!
Tony Soprano: Oh my God, if this ever gets out.
Carmela Soprano: Oh yeah, like you don’t do it or any of your friends. Bunch of hypocrites.
Tony Soprano: Hey, what goes on in this bedroom stays here and you know that.
Carmela Soprano: Once a year? I can resist the urge to gossip.
Meadow Soprano: This country’s light-years behind the rest of the world. Most civilized countries have legalized prostitution.
Tony Soprano: Don’t you got somewhere to be?
Meadow Soprano: I mean, it’s a joke. Look what they’re putting the President through.
Carmela Soprano: He deserved what he got.
Anthony ‘A.J.’ Soprano, Jr.: He got Monica Kaczynski and the broad with the long nose.
Meadow Soprano: I just don’t think sex should be a punishable offense.
Tony Soprano: You know honey, that’s where I agree with you. I don’t think sex should be a punishable offense either. But I do think talking about sex at the breakfast table is a punishable offense. So no more sex talk, OK?
Meadow Soprano: It’s the 90s. Parents are supposed to discuss sex with their children.
Tony Soprano: Yeah, but that’s where you’re wrong. You see out there it’s the 1990s but in this house it’s 1954.
[after hearing bad news, Tony and Carmela need to relocate hidden money, guns and... ]
Tony Soprano: All right. You’d better give me your jewelry.
[Carmela sighs with chagrin]
Tony Soprano: Hey, they know we can’t produce receipts. You want ‘em stealing this stuff from us?
[after Carmela removes her necklace, Tony points to her diamond ring and Carmela balks]
Tony Soprano: Come on.
Carmela Soprano: I’m not giving you my engagement ring. This isn’t stolen!
[beat, then frown]
Carmela Soprano: Is it?
Tony Soprano: No!
Tony Soprano: What do you think I am?
[Carmela sighs again]
“The Sopranos: University (#3.6)” (2001)
Tracee: I’m pregnant. It’s Ralphie’s.
Anthony ‘Tony’ Soprano Sr.: Congratulations.
Tracee: What should I do? He acts like he doesn’t give a shit.
Anthony ‘Tony’ Soprano Sr.: You ever think he’s not acting?
Anthony ‘Tony’ Soprano Sr.: Excuse me, let me tell you something… When America opened up the floodgates and let all us Italians in, what do you think they were doing it for? ‘Cause they were trying to save us from poverty? No, they did it because they needed us. They needed us to build their cities and dig their subways, and to make them richer. The Carnegies and The Rockerfellers: they needed worker bees and there we were. But some of us didn’t want to swarm around their hive and lose who we were. We wanted to stay Italian and preserve the things that meant something to us: honor and family and loyalty… and some of us wanted a piece of the action. Now we weren’t educated like the Americans, but we had the BALLS to take what we wanted! And those other folks, those other… the, the JP Morgans, they were crooks and killers too, but that was the business right? The American Way.
GH: I grew up a few blocks from Little Italy in Southeast Omaha. My younger brother Jim now owns Orsi’s Italian Bakery on 6th Street in Omaha. The Santa Lucia Festival was always the highlight of our summer. Jim was the honorary president this June. We knew the hard-working Italian American immigrants well as kids. My first two coaches ever were named Tony Butera and Tony Nocita – both larger-than-life father figures that to this day I love like they were actually my dad. While many wince at how The Sopranos portrayed Italian Americans, I recognized the warmth, humor and loyalty amidst the animal cruelty and murderous lifestyle. Gandolfini did Tony Soprano like no actor has ever done any character.