NEW YORK – To many TV fans, James Gandolfini will always be ruthless New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano.
But on the set of romantic dramedy “Enough Said,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus saw a very different side of “The Sopranos” star, who died of a heart attack 10 years ago on June 19, 2013. He was 51.
In the 2013 film – released three months after his death – Gandolfini played a soft-spoken single dad named Albert who falls for a massage therapist, Eva (Louis-Dreyfus). But the relationship gets knotty when Eva learns that Albert is actually the ex-husband of her new friend, Marianne (Catherine Keener).
“What was so particularly touching about working with him is that I feel as if the character he played in ‘Enough Said’ was very close to who he was as a person: a tender-hearted guy; soft; a vulnerable, even insecure guy,” Louis-Dreyfus told USA TODAY last month. “Juxtaposed to his size and his demeanor, it doesn’t seem to make sense. But that was, in fact, the case. I believe that’s why his depiction of Tony Soprano was so extraordinary, because there is that incredible vulnerability underneath it that was present all the time. And that’s really who he was.”
‘You Hurt My Feelings’:Julia Louis-Dreyfus talks honest new film, being her own worst critic
“Enough Said” was written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, who reunited with Louis-Dreyfus on this summer’s “You Hurt My Feelings” (in theaters now). The filmmaker remembers Gandolfini’s playful attitude, recalling a particularly fun afternoon when they all goofed around with a fart machine she brought to the set.
“We loved the fart machine. We’re all children,” Holofcener says with a laugh. “He had a great sense of humor and was a really lovely person. I think he felt he was miscast, and I hope he got over that because he was not miscast. He was charming and sexy and sweet, and that’s just what I wanted. So I had to reassure him a lot that I wouldn’t let him make a fool of himself.”
A couple of days before shooting started, Gandolfini was also the life of the party at a crew dinner.
“We were all such fans of his that I was still kind of pinching myself that I got him,” Holofcener says. That night “was the most drunk I’d ever seen my boyfriend. … Because you want to party with Jim, right? Who doesn’t?”
Gandolfini was nominated for six Emmy Awards for his work in HBO’s “Sopranos,” winning three. His son, Michael Gandolfini, played a younger version of Tony Soprano in 2021’s “The Many Saints of Newark,” a movie prequel to the series. At the time, “Sopranos” star Edie Falco marveled at the uncanny resemblance between the now-24-year-old actor and his dad.
“It’s really remarkable,” Falco told USA TODAY. “To me, they feel very different as people. But Michael, he really gets it. He got the voice, the face and the mannerisms. I think Jim would be freaking out right now if he saw this performance. Beyond thrilled.”