Michael Colgan reveals how he tried to woo James Gandolfini for the Gate stage
The artistic director of the Gate Theatre has spoken about time he spent with the late actor on the set of The Sopranos when he tried to get him to come to Ireland.
“He was a nice man, a very modest man and a fantastic actor,” Colgan told the Herald earlier today. “It's a great loss.”
Colgan wanted to cast him in his 2005 production of A View From The Bridge at The Gate. Colgan flew to the States to discuss the project with him.
“I wanted to cast him in the lead role of Eddie Carbone,” he explained.
“I thought he would have fantastic charisma on stage so I talked to his agent, went to the States and arranged to meet him for lunch,” he explained.
“But filming for The Sopranos got held up for a day, so instead of going for lunch I jumped in a car and went out to Silvercup studios – where it was filmed. I was on set all day.
“In between takes I went to his Winnebago and talked about coming over to Ireland.
“He would have loved to have done the show, but it didn't work out due to his schedule,” Michael explained.
“But he was a truly gifted actor – great presence on and off screen and he'll definitely be missed.”
Meanwhile it has been reported that Gandolfini, was looking forward to exploring his roots on his trip to Italy before dying of a suspected heart attack.
The 51-year-old died suddenly after suffering a suspected cardiac arrest at his Rome hotel where he was holidaying with his family before attending the 59th Taormina Film Festival in Sicily this weekend.
The actor, who had won widespread critical acclaim for his portrayal of the troubled Italian-American mafia boss in HBO drama series The Sopranos, was to receive a special award and attend a round-table event at the festival on Saturday.
The artistic director of the festival said on Thursday that he had spoken to Gandolfini late on Wednesday and that he had expressed his happiness at being in Italy.
"He was so happy to be in Italy, to reconnect with his Italian roots, and he was very excited to come here and receive this award," Mario Sesti said, according to an Italian news agency.
The festival was scrambling to organise a last-minute homage to Gandolfini to be held in place of the round-table discussion. Mr Sesti and fellow festival organiser Tiziana Rocca said they would put together a tribute "to celebrate his great achievement and talent."
Gandolfini grew up in New Jersey but both of his parents were born and raised in Italy.
Tributes poured in from both sides of the Atlantic after HBO spokesman Mara Mikialian confirmed his death. In a statement, HBO called the actor a great talent and a gentle and loving person.
"He was a genius," said Sopranos creator David Chase. "Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that. He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes."
Gandolfini's managers Mark Armstrong and Nancy Sanders said: "Our hearts are shattered and we will miss him deeply. He and his family were part of our family for many years and we are all grieving."
"I had the greatest sparring partner in the world, I had Muhammad Ali," said co-star Lorraine Bracco, who, as Tony's psychiatrist Dr Melfi in The Sopranos, went one-on-one with Gandolfini in their therapy scenes.
Gandolfini rose to fame in the 1993 film True Romance but became a household name thanks to his lead role in the groundbreaking The Sopranos that aired from 1999 to 2007.
His performance was indelible and career-making, but he refused to be stereotyped in other roles as the bulky mobster who was a therapy patient, family man and cold-blooded killer.
The programme ran for six seasons and, during that time, Gandolfini won three Emmys for his portrayal of the troubled mob boss.
Since The Sopranos ended its run in 2007, Gandolfini has appeared in a number of big-screen roles, including the espionage thriller Zero Dark Thirty and the comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.
Gandolfini also shared a Broadway stage in 2009 with Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis and Marcia Gay Harden in a celebrated production of "God of Carnage," where he earned a Tony Award nomination for best actor. He also was in "On the Waterfront" with David Morse.
In a December 2012 interview with The Associated Press, Gandolfini said he gravitated to acting as a release, a way to get rid of anger. "I don't know what exactly I was angry about," he said.
"I try to avoid certain things and certain kinds of violence at this point," he said. "I'm getting older, too. I don't want to be beating people up as much. I don't want to be beating women up and those kinds of things that much anymore."
At the time of his death, Gandolfini had been working on an upcoming new HBO series titled Criminal Justice.