The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

June 19, 2013

Actor James Gandolfini dies in Italy at age 51

(Continued)

In a December 2012 interview with The Associated Press, a rare sit-down for the star who avoided the spotlight, he was upbeat about a slew of smaller roles following the breathtaking blackout ending in 2007 of "The Sopranos."

"I'm much more comfortable doing smaller things," Gandolfini said in the interview. "I like them. I like the way they're shot; they're shot quickly. It's all about the scripts — that's what it is — and I'm getting some interesting little scripts."

He played Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in Kathryn Bigelow's Osama bin Laden hunt docudrama "Zero Dark Thirty." He worked with Chase for the '60s period drama "Not Fade Away," in which he played the old-school father of a wannabe rocker. And in Andrew Dominick's crime flick "Killing Them Softly," he played an aged, washed-up hit man.

There were comedies such as the political satire "In the Loop," and the heartwarming drama "Welcome to the Rileys," which co-starred Kristen Stewart. He voiced the Wild Thing Carol in "Where the Wild Things Are" and made a rare return to the TV screen with the HBO film "Cinemate Verite."

Deploying his unsought clout as a star, Gandolfini produced (though only sparingly appeared in) a pair documentaries for HBO focused on a cause he held dear: veterans affairs.

"Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq" (2007) profiled 10 soldiers and Marines who had cheated death but continued to wage personal battles long after their military service had ended. Four years later, "Wartorn: 1861-2010" charted victims of post-traumatic stress disorder from the U.S. invasion of Iraq all the way back to the Civil War.

"Do I think a documentary is going to change the world?" Gandolfini said with characteristic modesty during an interview about the latter film. "No, but I think there will be individuals who will learn things from it, so that's enough."

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