Since the announcement Wednesday afternoon of “Sopranos” star James Gandolfini’s passing, the entertainment industry has started reflecting on his influence on acting throughout his vast and eclectic career.
Gandolfini won three Emmys for his role as Tony Soprano on the acclaimed HBO series, which ran for six seasons, from 1999 to 2007. But his influence reached far beyond the mob, through his more recent roles in “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Welcome to the Rileys.”
While she had yet to make a public statement on his death at press time, Gandolfini’s “Welcome to the Rileys” co-star Kristen Stewart spoke to MTV News in 2010 about working with an actor of his caliber.
Gandolfini was well-known for playing characters that are intimidating, which suggests he was himself an imposing presence on set. But Stewart insisted that sharing the screen with him offered her much more reassurance than insecurity.
“It’s actually really oddly comforting,” she told MTV News’ Josh Horowitz. “Like, if you’re working with someone who’s an unknown, it’s always like, ‘Oh, I hope they’re [OK].’ But going into a movie with James and Melissa [Leo], the nerves come from ‘I hope I’m going to be OK’ rather than ‘I hope they’re not going to let me down’.”
And he didn’t seem to let her down one bit. In the film, Stewart plays an underage stripper who allows Gandolfini’s character, a grieving father, to stay with her, only to find herself becoming part of an unconventional family after his estranged wife shows up as well. Stewart said that his contributions were essential to her being able to play the role as effectively as possible.
“You can’t do it alone,” she observed. “So yeah, it was intimidating, but at the same time, like it always is with actors like that, it really pushes you hard.”