James Gandolfini may find himself the object of some gay fantasies
BY | MARCH 8, 2001
by Tim Nasson
Bay Windows correspondent
LOS ANGELES -- Tony Soprano: One of the most feared, respected and admired characters on television today. Forty-year-old James Gandolfini has helped make "The Sopranos" HBO's highest rated show ever. And he's earned not only the admiration of the show's fans, but he's won numerous awards, including an Emmy.
Gandolfini, who rarely speaks to the media because he thinks he has "nothing interesting to say," took some time out recently to talk about the success of "The Sopranos" -- and his most recent film, "The Mexican." In "The Mexican" Gandolfini plays a mobster -- no surprise there. But this time he's a mobster with a difference: a big beary, butch gay hit man.
He blushes and laughs when it's suggested that he is now going to be the fantasy of many gay men who like large, strong men. "Love is love, whether you're gay or straight," he says.
"The gay character that I play is non-stereotypical when one thinks about how many gay men are portrayed in films. That is why I took the role. It is one of the best gay roles I have seen in film. His sexuality is not really even brought into the picture until he eyes someone in a bar and Julia Roberts' character asks him point blank if he is gay since he is staring at the guy. When it is brought up, it is done in a very tasteful way."
Gandolfini is indebted to Julia Roberts for the chance to star in "The Mexican."
"Julia recommended me for the role," he says. "She is who she is for many reasons. She is kind, has a great heart, very intelligent, and is not afraid to stand up to anyone. She is the nurturing type and will fight for anyone if she thinks there is a reason to."
Not that Gandolfini needs anyone to pluck him from obscurity. He's on the most critically acclaimed show on television. "I am quite shocked that it took off the way it did the year it debuted [in 1999]," says Gandolfini of "The Sopranos." "I never expected it to be labeled `one of the greatest shows ever.' There are so many lunatic actors on it and there is so much violence but I guess it's the comedy that has reeled everyone in."
Gandolfini says he feels very lucky to be in the position he's in: He earned $10 million dollars for the first two seasons he appeared on "The Sopranos" and is now co-starring opposite Roberts and Brad Pit in "The Mexican." It's a long way from where he was in childhood to where he is now.
"I grew up 20 minutes away from where my character on `The Sopranos' lives," he says. "I am Italian, my character is Italian."
"I am not going to talk about that," says Gandolfini, when asked if he does any research for his role with anyone who is in the real Mob or if he grew up next to anyone he knew that was in the Mob.
Gandolfini is the son of a janitor at a New Jersey high school and his mother was a lunch lady before she retired. "Both of my parents grew up in Italy," he says, "and moved to the United States."
Before Gandolfini got into acting in 1992's "A Stranger Among Us," he managed nightclubs and bartended in New York City. "One of my friends took me to an acting class one night and everyone had to go up in front and act something out. I was really nervous, but I actually enjoyed it enough to go back. I fell in love with it."
He's played mobsters or other tough guys in "Get Shorty," "A Civil Action," "The Mighty," "Night Falls on Manhattan," "The Juror" and "8mm."
Why are people so fascinated with "The Sopranos"?
"I think it's because people can have a hard day at work, come home and watch my character suffer. It is an escape. People have done that ever since television was invented. People loved to, and still like to, watch Jackie Gleason's pain on `The Honeymooners' and Carroll O'Connor's problems on `All in the Family.'"
Gandolfini, the father of a nearly two-year-old son -- who married for the first time the year "The Sopranos" debuted -- will reveal little else about his personal life. He also won't reveal anything from upcoming episodes of "The Sopranos."
"I don't know how they are going to be edited. I really can't say anything, or I will get into trouble," he explains. He will reveal that he hopes to be doing at least two more seasons after this one.
"Doing a quality show of any kind is difficult. If we can sustain the quality of the first three seasons for one or two more, sure I will do them," he says. "And make more movies, too."