'Sopranos' co-star: Gandolfini was 'one of the greatest actors of our time'

James Gandolfini will long be remembered by fans, friends, co-stars and critics for his indelible portrayal of Tony Soprano on HBO's "The Sopranos." On Wednesday, New York Times TV writer Bill Carter and "Sopranos" co-star Federico Castelluccio joined TODAY's Matt Lauer to share some of their memories and to assess the late actor's lasting impact.

"He was a soft-spoken guy, but a warm guy," said Carter. "When he hugged you, it was genuine."

Lauer quoted from a statement given by "Sopranos" creator David Chase that noted that "a great deal of genius resided in those sad eyes," a statement Castelluccio, who played Furio on the series and was a friend of Gandolfini's, agreed with. "I couldn't have said it better myself," he said. "James Gandolfini was one of the greatest actors of our time.... He was a really well-nuanced actor."

Still, both agreed that Gandolfini battled demons, and once ended up in rehab for drug addiction. "He did have some problems dealing with his fame," said Carter. "He believed himself to be just a guy who emerged with a career he didn't expect."

Remembered Castelluccio, it wasn't unusual for Gandolfini to disappear for days at a time while making the show. One particular scene in which Furio wants to kill Tony prompted such a vanishing. "No one knew where he was for a few days," he said. "He wrote me a wonderful letter after that saying, 'You were there for me and I wasn't there for you and I apologize, but it's something I needed to do."

James Gandolfini, 1961-2013

Image: James Gandolfini
Barry Wetcher

The award-winning actor made even brutal mob boss Tony Soprano seem likable, but that was far from his only role.


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