Born in Westwood, New Jersey, September 18, 1961, James Joseph Gandolfini graduated from Rutgers University. He discovered the stage after spending years as a Manhattan bouncer and nightclub manager. When a friend took him to an acting class in the late ’80s, he was left so unsettled and challenged by a focusing exercise that involved threading a needle that he knew he had to return.
“I’d also never been around actors before,” says Gandolfini, “and I said to myself, ‘These people are nuts; this is kind of interesting.'”
After touring Scandinavia theaters in a production of
A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (“I remember lots of old people falling asleep in dinner theaters,” he says), Gandolfini immersed himself in Manhattan’s downtown theater world. He made his Broadway debut in the 1992 revival of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE with Alec Baldwin, Jessica Lange and Amy Madigan. His New York stage credits also include: “On the Waterfront,” “One Day Wonder” with the Actor’s Studio,”Summer Winds” with The Naked Angels, and “Tarantulas Dancing” at the Samuel Beckett Theatre.
James Gandolfini has made his indelible mark in a diversity of roles in over 40 motion pictures and television productions. His big-screen debut was in Sidney Lumet’s A STRANGER AMONG US, starring Melanie Griffith.
He appeared in Anthony Minghella’s MR. WONDERFUL with Annabella Sciorra and Matt Dillon, and as John Cusack’s brother in MONEY FOR NOTHING. He played a pivotal role in Steve Zaillian’s A CIVIL ACTION with John Travolta and Robert Duvall; Peter Chelsom’s THE MIGHTY with Sharon Stone, and Joel Schumacher’s 8MM with Nicolas Cage and Joaquin Phoenix. He co-starred in William Friedkin’s 12 ANGRY MEN; Nick Cassavetes’ SHE’S SO LOVELY with Sean Penn and Robin Wright Penn; Gregory Hoblit’s FALLEN with Denzel Washington; Sidney Lumet’s NIGHT FALLS ON MANHATTAN with Andy Garcia and Lena Olin; Brian Gibson’s THE JUROR with Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore; GET SHORTY with Danny DeVito and John Travolta; Tony Scott’s CRIMSON TIDE with Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington; French director Alain Corneau’s LE NOUVEAU MONDE; TERMINAL VELOCITY with Nastassja Kinski and Charlie Sheen; and ANGIE with Geena Davis. Gandolfini’s breakthrough screen role came with his portrayal of Virgil, the philosophizing hitman, in Tony Scott’s TRUE ROMANCE with Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette.
Gandolfini starred in the title role as Tony Soprano in HBO’s hit original series, THE SOPRANOS, and the world has not been the same since.