James Gandolfini’s friends react to his passing: ‘A kind, funny, wonderful guy’

By now you know that James Gandolfini passed away in Italy yesterday. There are more details about what happened, and all of the details are pretty sad. James had brought his son Michael (who is in 8th grade) to Sicily for a “guys’ trip” to the Taormina film festival, and it was Michael who was in the room when his father collapsed. James was conscious or semi-conscious when Michael called for help and when hotel staffers entered the room, but by the time James arrived at the hospital after a short ambulance ride, he was dead. TMZ says that James’ first wife (Michael’s mother) flew to Italy to be with Michael. I’m assuming that James’ current wife Deborah Lin also flew to Italy to bring her husband home.

The reactions from James’ friends, colleagues and fans have been pouring in overnight as the news broke. I believe it was HBO executives who confirmed the news to most media outlets. Here are some reactions:

David Chase, creator of The Sopranos: “He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes. I remember telling him many times, ‘You don’t get it. You’re like Mozart.’ There would be silence at the other end of the phone. He wasn’t easy sometimes. But he was my partner, he was my brother in ways I can’t explain and never will be able to explain. For Deborah and Michael and Liliana this is crushing. And it’s bad for the rest of the world.”

Steven Van Zandt: “I have lost a brother and a best friend. The world has lost one of the greatest actors of all time. Maureen and I send our deepest sympathy and love to Deborah, Michael, Lily, and all of Jimmy’s family.”

Gov. Chris Christie: “James Gandolfini’s passing is an awful shock. He was a fine actor, a Rutgers alum and a true Jersey guy.”

Olivia Wilde: “James Gandolfini was a kind, funny, wonderful guy. I’m so lucky to have worked with him. Sending love to his family. Such a sad, sad day.”

Lorraine Bracco : “We lost a giant today. I am utterly heartbroken.”

Brad Grey: “Jimmy was one of the most talented, authentic and vulnerable actors of his time. He was unorthodox and truly special in so many ways. He had the sex appeal of Steve McQueen or Brando in his prime as well as the comedic genius of Jackie Gleason.”

Susan Sarandon: “So sad to lose James Gandolfini. One of the sweetest, funniest, most generous actors I’ve ever worked with. Sending prayers to his family.”

Michael Moore: “One of the good guys, kind and generous and an active supporter of documentary filmmakers.”

Ugh, this is so sad. And in case you were wondering, the tabloid conspiracy theories have already popped up – go here to read the Enquirer’s new report. GQ also has a story about James and his demons too – apparently, the story is already out in the July issue, but they’ve just published it online – you can read it here.

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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49 Responses to “James Gandolfini’s friends react to his passing: ‘A kind, funny, wonderful guy’”

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  1. MrsB says:

    Oh man, that just breaks my heart that his son witnessed it. Terrible enough to lose your dad at that young age, even worse to watch it happen.

  2. Ellie66 says:

    So very sad, he was such a awesome guy! Many he RIP..bless he family. :(

  3. Shelby says:

    RIP ~ My heart goes out to his family

  4. Nicolette says:

    RIP. Seemed like a good man, and I’m so sorry his son had to experience that. Was watching the news this morning, and they had a clip of James working with Wounded Warriors, he was very much involved with them. Too young to go. :(

  5. Thora says:

    The GQ article said he took drugs but frustratingly didn’t say what drugs he took. I like details.

  6. Faye says:

    Such a sad thing to happen, not only because he was so young but because he has young children. Maybe I shouldn’t judge without knowing the facts, but parents, please take care of yourselves! Your health is not just for you, it’s for your kids.

    • NYC_girl says:

      It’s very sad. I worked with two very kind, nice men who died suddenly of heart attacks, probably around the same age. I don’t think men monitor their health as closely as women – it’s so important to watch their hearts and prostate. My father, a cousin, and a family friend all were diagnosed with prostate cancer within a year of each other. My father was successfully treated robotically but his prostate was so diseased it could have ruptured, and I still get scared when I think of the cancer metastasizing.

    • emmie_a says:

      I totally get what you’re saying Faye but sometimes it’s just in the cards. My brother-in-law was a marathon runner total health nut and he died of a massive heart attack at 47 (like James, with two young children). horrible horrible.

      • Faye says:

        @emmie_a: I agree, sometimes you do everything right and it still does not help. I am sorry for your loss. I really wonder if there is something about runners – my mother had two fellow doctor colleagues who were super-fit runners who died of sudden heart attacks, and we know someone in our community who fit the same profile. It’s something worth looking into, research-wise.

        I do think that while it’s not a guarantee, we still have to take the best possible care of ourselves for things that are known risk factors.

      • emmie_a says:

        Thanks Faye — And I completely agree with your sentiment.

        RIP James Gandolfini.

  7. Fiesty Redhead says:

    I actually cried this morning when i heard the news on tv. RIP James.

    • mom2two says:

      I was upset last night when I saw the news. James was a really talented actor. Tony Soprano and the whole show would not have worked as well without his terrific performance.
      Very heartbreaking to read that it was his son who found him.
      My thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends.

  8. Mandy says:

    So heartbreaking. I enjoyed watching him on The Sopranos. I was strangely attraced to his Tony Soprano character!

  9. yeahright says:

    One word. Cocaine. No sympathy from me save for his son who had to witness that. But honestly I think I’d feel worse watching my dad abuse cocaine than I would watching him die.

  10. MorticiansDoItDeader says:

    No open casket for him if he died in Italy. He’ll be packed in dry ice and sent home and there’s usually not much you can do with them once they get back to the US.

    • BeesKness says:

      Eww that’s giving me quite the visual!

    • Ag says:

      Ok… I don’t really understand the point of your comment, but ok.

      • MorticiansDoItDeader says:

        @Ag, then ask for clarification or just ignore it. I’m a mortician, and that’s what i think about when I hear about an unusual or tragic death. My point is, he won’t be viewable and that’s sad for family that may want to see him for closure. Your comment was rude and condescending.

      • Ag says:

        @Morticians – I def didn’t mean to be rude or condescending. I understood what you were saying, that it was a comment on European burial practices (I’m originally from Europe, and am familiar with the fact that they don’t embalm there). It just struck me as an inappropriate (maybe that’s too strong a word?) thing to talk about in a post that’s somewhat of a RIP/tribute. That’s all.

    • Kiddo says:

      I actually found your comment interesting and I think how sad for the family. Especially with a sudden unexpected death. Isn’t there something better they can do? Can they just have a wake there?

      • MorticiansDoItDeader says:

        @kiddo, thank you. They could definitely have a viewing there, but their methods of preparation differ from ours (mostly cold storage). Embalming is an emerging process in Italy. Embalmers are highly regarded but not all funeral homes there employ one (and embalming would, most likely, be needed to make Mr. Gandalphini viewable). I recently handled a massive heart attack. The man was in his mid-forties (and built a lot like mr. Gandolphini), and he was eggplant purple after sitting in the morgue for 1/2 of a day. That discoloration can only be flushed via embalming (and only if adequate drainage is achieved and the appropriate fluids are chosen). Perhaps they will find someone over there to preserve him to our specifications, because I think it’s important for his wife and kids to see him at peace (particularly if his son’s last memory of him was one where he was struggling or looked less than peaceful).

      • MorticiansDoItDeader says:

        @Ag, you’re entitled to your opinion, but as a funeral professional of 15 years I see nothing insensitive about my statement. In fact, I’ve had to tell several families some variation of what I said above (and have yet to be told I was insensitive). In my experience, people appreciate honesty (when delivered sensitively). What they don’t like are the cliché offers of sympathy such as: “he lived a good life,” “he’s in a better place,” etc.

        I think it’s important to encourage an open dialogue about death, in order to remove its stigma. I actually contribute to a blog devoted to exactly that. It’s called “the order of the good death” (started by Caitlin Dougherty of “Ask a Mortician” YouTube fame).

        If my candor offends you, I suggest you not watch her YouTube videos. However, they’re awesomely witty and worth a watch.

        Best wishes from a fellow Jersey girl.

  11. Ag says:

    So sad. I feel awful for his kids, his family and friends. Great actor, a fellow Rutgers alum, and Jersey legend. Sads all around.

  12. just me says:

    always the stars that shine the brightest seem to burn out the quickest. So sad for this news. really one of the most talented actors ever. I mean, I forgot he was James Gandolfini and thought he was really Tony Soprano in real life during the series..just brilliant at his craft. Seemed like a great guy as well and I feel horrible for his son who had to witness it. prayers for the family.

  13. EIleen says:

    May he rest in peace-sympathies to his family-his poor son witnessing his sudden cardiac arrest if thats what happened. His poor daughter will have no memories of her father. Awful.

  14. Joy says:

    I didn’t realize he was only 51.

  15. Lady LaLa says:

    I’ve never cried when an actor died, but I did this morning :(

  16. the original bellaluna says:

    Awful. Just awful. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.

    His poor son, who found him in the bathroom (still alive) and called for help around 10p.m. The EMTs worked on resuscitating him on the way to the hospital, and the ER continued to work on him for 40 minutes before declaring him dead at 11p.m.

    Thoughts and prayers to his wife and children.

    I hope James’ son will accept the award on his father’s behalf.

  17. Joney Says says:

    RIP James Gandolfini! So young, with so much more talent to share. A great talent gone too soon. He will be missed. My condolences to his family.

  18. Ashley says:

    in tears…seriously

    what a phenomenal presence and just WOW gone like that

    i cant …..i just dont understand the reason we lose all the f*ucking greats

    and then get left with fame whores and losers and ppl just WANTING to be FAMOUS for jack sh*t

    obviously i loved this actor….SUCH A LOSS

  19. I Choose Me says:

    Oh man. He was a damned fine actor. The statements from those who knew and loved him have me all choked up. RIP Mr. Gandolfini.

  20. Jayna says:

    Very sad. I wouldn’t be surprised that he had advanced heart disease, thus a massive heart attack. Very overweight for years, so probably a bad diet and blocked arteries.

    Rest in peace. Brilliant actor. I feel so bad for his son.

  21. vegemite says:

    So sad.His own reaction to the end of Tony Soprano reads like an epitaph.I think the quote was made in a Vogue interview.RIP