For Michael Gandolfini, entering into his father’s footwear was by no means going to be straightforward.
In “The Many Saints of Newark,” the 22-year-old plays a younger version of certainly one of TV’s most iconic characters, Tony Soprano — a task for which his dad, the late James Gandolfini, received six Emmys.
To many, James Gandolfini was Tony Soprano. So followers had been surprised when the buzzy trailer for the HBO Max film dropped earlier this month, with James’ voice narrating as his lookalike son appeared onscreen.
“It was nearly surreal to see Michael within the trailer,” Michael’s stepmother and James’ widow, Deborah Lin, informed The Publish. “I do know it took a number of braveness for him to take this function. It was very emotional. However the entire household is simply so pleased with him. His father could be very proud.”
Engaged on the “Sopranos” prequel film has been a type of remedy for Michael, based on those that know him. The NYU scholar has stated he truly turned to performing to assist him grieve following his dad’s tragic demise in June 2013, on the age of 51.
Michael, the actor’s solely son, was simply 14 when James suffered a coronary heart assault in his resort room whereas they had been on trip in Rome. The boy bade farewell to his father at a star-studded funeral alongside the forged of “The Sopranos.”
And whereas he had grown up having the actors, together with Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Lorraine Bracco, as household, Michael didn’t actually watch the show till it got here time for him to audition for the film function of Tony.
That’s as a result of, he stated, James “didn’t need me to see Tony Soprano — the violence, the offended, the imply … It was actually arduous to look at my dad,” Michael informed Vanity Fair.
However he discovered inspiration within the moments when mobster Tony met therapist Dr. Melfi, performed by Bracco: “I recorded 4 hours of his monologues with Melfi and walked round New York with them consistently, consistently, consistently taking part in in my ear.”
And his dad’s castmates are cheering him on. “We would like Michael to succeed and be pleased with no matter he does,” Bracco, who final noticed Michael simply earlier than the pandemic, informed The Publish. “He has very large footwear to fill and I hope that individuals aren’t anticipating an excessive amount of. I would like him to be his personal man, his personal actor … I don’t suppose we must always actually evaluate him to Jimmy.
“He’s a wise, nice child. I don’t need to say that he jogs my memory of Jimmy — he’s his personal individual. However Jimmy could be very pleased with him, he could be thrilled.”
James and his first spouse, Marcy, wed in March 1999, two months earlier than Michael’s delivery. It was additionally the 12 months that “The Sopranos” premiered on HBO, making James — who had beforehand had small however memorable roles in “Get Shorty” and “Crimson Tide” — a family identify.
Calling her co-star a “hands-on dad,” Bracco remembered one of many first instances James introduced Michael to the set.
“He was tiny and Jimmy was making me snigger, saying, ‘I would like him to be a person,’” she stated. “I informed him ‘He’s three months previous, go away him alone!’”
His father’s profession was “tough” for the household because it meant he was “away lots,” Michael has stated. In truth, James tried to dissuade his son from pursuing a Hollywood profession, regardless of the boy’s love of performing — particularly performing out scenes from the Broadway present “Depraved.”
“As I acquired older, he needed me to play sports activities. I felt that burden,” Michael, who grew up bouncing between Los Angeles and New York Metropolis, informed Esquire. “I needed to make him proud. And he stated, ‘Don’t be an actor; be a director. They’ve the facility.’”
James additionally wrestled with demons by the overwhelming fame that “The Sopranos” introduced him.
In accordance with GQ, when Marcy filed for divorce in 2002, her courtroom submitting “described [James’] more and more critical points with medication and alcohol, in addition to arguments throughout which the actor would repeatedly punch himself within the face out of frustration.”
As Bracco recalled, “Jimmy beloved to do his work, he was nice at what he did, however the entire success factor is bizarre. I don’t suppose he ever anticipated it in such a giant method. He wasn’t actually into the entire public factor, he hated going to all of the awards, it was tortuous for him.”
He went on to marry Deborah, a mannequin, in 2008. Their daughter Liliana was born in 2012. Solely eight months previous when James died, she is now an elementary-schooler dwelling along with her mom in Los Angeles, and, based on Deborah, is near her brother.
“Jim simply needed his youngsters to at all times have one another, that was so vital to him,” she informed The Publish.
After his dad’s demise, Michael joined the high-school soccer staff — however, finally, he couldn’t resist his true calling, performing.
His first audition led to his first function — an element on the HBO sequence “The Deuce,” co-starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Franco.
“From the primary day, I fell in love with [acting],” he has stated. “It truly began my grieving course of with my dad.”
He filmed “The Many Saints of Newark” in 2019. It’s lastly being launched on Oct. 1 after being pushed again amid the pandemic.
When he landed the half, he had religion it wasn’t just stunt casting. “I had this unstated belief that David [Chase] wasn’t going to forged me if there was even a shred that this isn’t going to work,” he stated of the present’s creator, who co-produced and co-wrote the movie.
The film is an origin story as seen by means of the eyes of Tony’s uncle Dickie Moltisanti (performed by Alessandro Nivola), the daddy of the present’s Christopher (Michael Imperioli). Ray Liotta, Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal and Vera Farmiga additionally star within the movie, which Chase has stated makes use of the 1967 Newark riots — spurred by two Italian-American law enforcement officials beating a black cab driver — as a plot framework.
Watching “The Sopranos” for analysis led to Michael having “loopy desires,” he informed Esquire: “I had one the place I auditioned for David and I appeared down at my arms, they usually had been my dad’s arms.”
There have been additionally moments when it felt like his father was reaching out to him.
“[Tony] yells at A.J., and he will get a pizza to apologize, and he sits by his son’s mattress and says, ‘I couldn’t ask for a greater son,’” Michael stated. “I simply knew he was speaking to me in that scene.”
Michael, who’s quickly to announce a brand new challenge, can be seemingly attempting to keep away from following an excessive amount of in his father’s footsteps.
Earlier this 12 months, he participated in on-line magazine Mr Feelgood’s “Who the F–okay Are You” sequence. “I’ve no clue who I’m. I need to be an excellent human, principally … I believe who I’m boils all the way down to my actions,” Michael, who’s believed to be relationship former NYU classmate Ally Gorder, stated. “So, I’m a junior in faculty, an aspiring actor and a sober younger man.”
He added: “I’m most pleased with my sobriety.”
Celebrating his birthday in Might 2020, Michael wrote on Instagram: “Being sober and in restoration these previous couple of years is the best present I may have on my twenty first birthday. Thanks all for the unbelievable birthday needs. My life is so stunning due to my superb household, pals, and neighborhood. I’m very, very fortunate. Love you all.”
On Instagram, he ceaselessly posts candy childhood photographs of himself together with his dad. On James’ birthday in 2019, he wrote: “Comfortable birthday goofball. Really feel nearer and farther from you on a regular basis, all on the similar time. However is not going to ever cease feeling your love. Love you dad. Comfortable birthday.”
James’ widow believes that the late actor is a guardian angel for his youngsters. “I do know he’s watching down on us and taking care of us, like he at all times did,” she stated, including that James needed to show them one lesson: “It doesn’t matter what occurred, it’s most vital to be an excellent individual.”