There was a moment in the stage version of God of Carnage where the perceptive actor James Gandolfini must stand and release the animal within. It’s a slow burn but one that takes the play where it needs to go: mankind — plainly brutal. Gandolfini was maybe the only actor who could have done that scene the way it was written. He was one of the few actors who could connect fully to the beast within. At the same time, he often offered up such vulnerability on screen it was breathtaking, how different he could be at times, how unexpected his choices often were as an actor. He was gone too soon. 51 is too young. What else might he have accomplished? He was one of those actors who, when he was right for the part, there was no other actor better. This was true of The Sopranos, of God of Carnage, Killing Them Softly, Zero Dark Thirty, In the Loop, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Where the Wild Things Are, True Romance and The Juror. He leaves behind a giant empty space, one that can’t be filled by anyone else in Hollywood. They don’t make them like that very often, if ever, not in the world of actors. The thing about Gandolfini that was easy to miss was that he wasn’t the big tough New Jersey Tony Soprano he played on TV. He was a gentle soul, by most accounts. Even in this fan-made video it is assumed he’s a baseball fan, because why wouldn’t he be? But instead, he’s a puppy fan. Unfortunately, there is apparently no video of Gandolfini in God of Carnage, which is a shame since the Polanski version pales in comparison. One of the best things I ever did was buy a ticket to that play. TV will probably never get better than The Sopranos and 90% of that had to do with James Gandolfini. Put any other actor in that part and you still have a great show. But to be the best story, they needed the best Tony and no one could top him. Hopefully mitigating some of the pain his son will likely endure for a lifetime is the legacy his brilliant father left in his wake. He won’t be forgotten by anyone. He really did love Italy, so that might be some comfort to his family.