James Gandolfini

  1. John Travolta, Pulp Fiction, 1993.    
  2. Robert Pastorelli, Cracker: Mind Over Murder, TV, 1997-1999.  Gandolfini was surprisingly passed over for the Americanising of the hit UK series. What lasted three years on ITV, was axed by ABC  after 11 shows; five  more were seen later on the A&E Network, which had run the Brit shows with Robbie Coltrane as the criminal psychologist Dr ‘Fitz’ Fitzgerald.
  3. Ray Liotta, Blow, 2001.    Gandolfini’s hiatus from The Sopranos was not long enough to embrace all his offers.   Liotta, his   career resuscitated by playing Frank Sinatra on HBO,   delivered the best work of his life   as the loser father   of Johnny Depp as George Jung –    the man who cocained America.
  4. Tom Hanks, Catch Me If You Can, 2002.     The reason director Gore Verbinski never made the film is that Leonardo DiCaprio was delayed on The Gangs of New York.   When he was free, Verbinski was not and when Steven Spielberg took over, Jim was heading back to da boys in Jersey.  (He  had made The Mexican for Verbinski).
  5. Robert De Niro, Shark Tale, 2004.    The newest mafioso in town was replaced by the older as the voice of the great white shark’s gang Godfather Don Lino. (They had been due to co-star as Scared Guys in 2003). Gandolfini’s TV nephew, Michael Imperioli, voiced Don Lino’s son, Frankie, and another Sopranos star, Vincent Pastore, aka Big Pussy, was the octopus Luca.
  6. Michael Chiklis, Fantastic Four, 2004.   An inevitable – and totally stupid – choice for Ben Grimm/The Thing… after a daily three hours of make-up. Bruce Willis was also also lucky to lose this mess, the second of four flop versions of the comic. One day, Marvel will doubtless regain all rights and fit the Four into its triumphant Cinematic Universe.
  7. Johnny Depp, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, 2004.  
    Director Tim Burton’s 30 fancies for choclatier Willy Wonka were his ole Beetelgeuse, Michael Keaton, Gandolfini, Rowan Atkinson, Dan Aykroyd, Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, Chevy Chaze, Warwick Davis, Robert De Niro, Dwayne Johnson, Ian McKellen, Marilyn Manson, Steve Martin, Rik Mayall, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, John Neville, Leslie Nielsen, Brad Pitt, Peter Sallis, Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld, Will Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ben Stiller, Christopher Walken, Robin Williams. And the surviving Monty Python crew (also up for the 1970 version): John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin. Among the five exec producers, author Roald Dahl’s widow, Liccy, wanted her husband’s favourite Willy  – Dustin Hoffman.   If not possible she voted for UK comics, Eddie Izzard or David Walliams. She was quite happy with Depp… who found Willy’s voice whiule riffing on a stoned George W Bush!

  8. Ed Harris, Empire Falls, TV, 2005.   Another Our Town, this time a 483-page novel by Richard Russo – and a Pulitzer prize-winner like Thornton Wilder’s play 63 years earlier. Paul Newman, who starred in Russo’s Nobody’s Fool, adored the book and knew it needed more time than a movie, and collected starsf galre fr an HBO two-parter. Russo wanted Gandolfini, king of HBO at the time, for his selfless hero – beautifully renderted by Harris, alongside an unrecognisable Newman as his father, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Helen Hunt, Estelle Parsons, Aidan Quinn, Theresa Russell, Joanne Woodward.
  9. Kevin James, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, 2006.   The Ace Ventura and Bruce Almighty producer Tom Shadyac had this idea brewing since 1999 when the New York firemen pretending to be gay (for tax purposes) were Joe and Benny.  Tom went through various couples. Will Smith and Nicolas Cage.  No? OK, how about Will Smith and James Gandolfini (wow!). Or even, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.  Before settling on Adam Sandler and Kevin James. Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers trounced it all as  “mealy-mouthed hypocrisy.”
  10. Josh Brolin, American Gangster, 2007. 2006.   Ridley Scott asked Jim to play Detective Trupo.   No way could he serve that title as a cop. Not after eight glorious years as everyone’s favourite American gangster, Mafia chief of The Sopranos on HBO TV.

  11. Eric Roberts, The Dark Knight, 2008.
  12. Bruce Willis, Cop Out, 2009.    Warner picked up the script when Gold Circle dropped it in 2008. And turned Gandolfini and Robin Williams into Willis and Tracy Morgan as (first title) A Couple of Dicks. Director Kevin Smith’s most successful film. (Also the first he didn’t script, you see).  As the director, he did not get on as well with  Willis as he did when they co-starred in Love Free or Die Hard, 2006. “I don’t wish him poorly or anything like that,” he said at  Comic Con 2014, “but I just don’t want to be near him ever again.”
  13. Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire, TV,  2010-2014.     “He was one of the first people we talked about,” said Terence Winter, creator and showrunner of the HBO series. “Not only had we just worked with him but he also bore such an uncanny resemblance to the actual Nucky Thompson.” But it was too soon after Tony Soprano… “Then Marty [Scorsese,  director of the first episode] called me up and said, ‘I can’t stop thinking about Steve Buscemi.’ I said, ‘I can’t either.’ And that was it.”
  14. Clive Owen, Hemingway and Gelhorn, TV, 2012.    “Almost all of the movies I’ve done I spent a long time on,” said veteran director Philip Kaufman. “This was eight years in development.” Time for Gandolfini to be in – and then out – of being Papa.He remained as one of ten producers with his Attaboy combine and helped interesthis Sopranos home, HBO, in joiningthe project.As for Owen, “who could play Hemingway better?” asked Kaufman. “Who could embody that spirit which is great and sexy and then goes astray as the film goes on?
  15. William Shatner,  Escape From Planet Earth, 2012.    First choice to voice the villainous General Shanker  in the adventure of astronaut Scorch Supernova (Brendan Fraser) in the helming debut of  Despicable Me storyboard artist Callan Brunker.
  16. Brendan Gleason, Sexual Healing, 2013.   Eight years earlier, Gandolfini was trying to produce trhe movie about  Marvin Gaye’s Euro rehabilitation process in the early 60s.  Gandolfini was also due to be Freddy Cousaert, the UK  music promoter helping get Marvin’s career back on track with his biggest-selling album, Midnight Love.  Like so many Marvin projects – one  to star Will Smith – Gandolfini’s was totalled. He had also selected Jesse L Martin, star of Broadway’s Rent musical and TV’s  Law & Order, to portray Marvin.   On June 19 that year  while on a Rome visit with his son, Gandolfini had a heart attack and died.  He was 51.  I interviewed (nearly) all the Sopranos in Paris and  Jim could not  have been more welcoming and helpful.  A great guy. A super talent.
  17. John Turturro, The Night Of, TV, 2016.    Considering how Robert De Niro in Mean Streets turned Gandolfini on to acting – and had been the the #1 target for Tony Soprano – it was only fitting that HBO should ask De Niro to inherit Jim’s pet project following his shock Rome death in 2013, a month after completing The Drop.   When De Niro’s schedules intervened, Turturro took over the seedy lawyer Jack Stone…played by Jim in the never seen 2013 US pilot and by Con O’Neill, totally stealing Peter Moffat’s original BBC drama, Criminal Justice in 2008. 









 Birth year: 1961Death year: 2013Other name: Casting Calls:  17