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James Gandolfini, Killing Them Softly

James Gandolfini's six best moments

It wasn’t all about Big T. But even if it mainly was, it could be worse, right?

By Phil Harrison

1. Tony and Melfi

Here’s where it all began. Tony is in his first therapy session and sparks fly. Gandolfini does everything in this scene; sadness, rage, self-pity, confusion. It’s a stunning performance and a perfect illustration of why we fell so hard for this, erm, flawed hero. ‘Whatever happened to Gary Cooper? He wasn’t in touch with his feelings. He just did what he had to do.’

2. Tony and Paulie

One of the many enduring joys of ‘The Sopranos’ was Paulie’s habit of telling a joke and then explaining it to Tony on the off-chance that his boss had missed it. Tony’s ‘slightly bored of Paulie’ face never got old.

3. ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’

The Coen Brothers’ ‘The Man Who Wasn’t There’ was the British audience’s first glimpse of a ‘Sopranos’-era Gandolfini as anyone other than the big guy. ‘Big Dave’ Brewster was a subtle tweak: a similar bullishness but with an edge of desperate vulnerability; somewhere between cock of the walk and scared schoolboy.

4. ‘In the Loop’

Gandolfini’s General George Miller was different again, walking the thin line between comedy and tragedy. In this scene, Miller does an excellent impression of a giant ball sack, works out troop shortfalls on a child’s pink counting toy before concluding, ‘at the end of a war, you need some soldiers left, really. Or else it starts to look like you’ve lost…’

5. Tony and AJ

After pausing for his customary root around in the fridge, Tony hears the cries of his suicidal son and races for the pool. What follows is a brief but devastatingly intense two-hander. Tony and AJ might not have liked each other very much, but the love in this scene is painfully obvious.

6. Tony and eternity

Spoiler alert: this entry contains important information about the conclusion of 'The Sopranos'

The most debated final scene in TV history? Probably. Whether or not the Soprano family lived or died is up to you. But this scene felt like the culmination of a unique relationship between writer, actor and part. And of course, in the light of Gandolfini’s death, it feels especially poignant. Fade to black…


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