Danger. When an actor has it, you sit up and take notice. Humanity. When an actor shares it, you identify with his struggle as your own. Enter James Gandolfini.
Whether on the stage, the red carpet or simply lifting his eyes to the camera in a closeup, Gandolfini exudes both of these ineffable qualities.
Even with his back to the camera in the movie “Not Fade Away,” James brings both pathos and electricity to his character, a Willy Lomanesque father of an aspiring 1960s’ rock star. He is committed. He doesn’t care if you like him. He just wants you to know him. So he yanks his son by the collar, and you hold your breath fearing the worst as they “tangle.” He accepts the losses in his life with a grunt and a swiped-away tear, and though you respect his honor, you yearn with him for the adventure never to be had, the love never to be experienced.
James keeps it simple, he does his job, he mines his craft, he lets ordinary be ordinary. So why is he so riveting? Because at any moment, he will surprise you with the unexpected. The marriage of nobility and violence, humanity and danger.