James Gandolfini Tribute Closes Out Taormina Fest

Late actor had been due for tribute at Italian event

Taormina Film Festival
Venturelli/Getty Images

The Taormina Film Festival wrapped Saturday with a tribute to James Gandolfini, who was on en route to the fest to be part of the Saturday evening honors when he died in Rome last week.

After a clip of Gandolfini from John Turturro’s “Romance and Cigarettes” was shown to the ampthitheater crowd, Variety executive editor Steven Gaydos presented a brief eulogy and assessment of Gandolfini’s impact, noting that the Italian-American actor was “the one who brought the character of Tony Soprano to life and to international audiences who related to the big man with sad eyes and tremendous heart.” Gaydos called Gandolfini “an actor who had in two decades established himself as an irreplaceable presence in television and film.”

Taormina’s 59th edition showed an increase in attendance of 35% over 2012, according to  artistic director Mario Sesti and general manager Tiziana Rocca. Sesti and Rocca also announced the dates for next year’s 60th anniversary edition, which will take place June 14-21.

Fest, which was revived after financial difficulties led to the reorg and rethink of the event’s mandate under Sesti and Rocca, clearly puts its programming emphasis on Hollywood blockbusters and movie star glamour. The fest’s 60-film program is dominated by the popular evening screenings in the resort town’s historic Greek amphitheater.

Opening with WB global behemoth, “Man of Steel,” bolstered by cast members Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon and director Zack Synder. “Steel” repped the biggest crowd of the fest with more 4,500 filmgoers at the SRO screening. Fest wrapped with a packed crowd’s enthusiastic response to Italian lingo version of Disney’s “The Lone Ranger.” According to Sesti and Rocca, average nightly attendance topped 3,000.

Also keeping local film fans happy were the daily appearances of lots of Italian film and TV stars such as the closing night honoree, popular comic actor Gigi Proietti, as well as Ornella Muti, Sergio Rubini and many others. International film star honorees included Jeremy Irons, Marisa Tomei (pictured above with Tiziana Rocca) and Meg Ryan, who attended with her boyfriend, American music star John Mellencamp. Film biz pros in attendance included Millenium Films’ topper Avi Lerner and Disney Italy CEO Daniel Frigo.