I finally met James Gandolfini last year. It was Paramount's Christmas party at Spago in Beverly Hills and he was there with his "Killing Them Softly" director Andrew Dominik. He was, in a word, imposing. I shook his hand and it engulfed my own. He seemed incredibly unwilling to suffer a fool and I loved that about him, as I do people like Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, etc. But he was willing to engage, willing to give a glimpse of that soft-center.
Now, suddenly, he's dead. A heart attack in Italy. Too soon doesn't begin to say it, but as the news makes its way across the wires I find myself, as we always do at times like this, thinking back on the work. And Gandolfini had a wealth of it. You see, he wasn't always this star, this "name." He made his hay as a character actor in film after film, always leaving a deep impression, long before "The Sopranos" came calling.