Julia Louis-Dreyfus: James Gandolfini ‘Had a Lot of Insecurities’

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Nicole Holofcener recalled James Gandolfini's on and off-screen generosity at Variety screening of 'Enough Said'

Nicole Holofcener and Julia Louis-Dreyfus at
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As “Enough Said” fades to black, the words “For Jim” appear at the beginning of the end credits.

Just like the film itself, Monday night’s Variety Screening Series Q&A paid homage to the late James Gandolfini. This was Gandolfini’s last performance before his tragic death.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who also stars in the film, said the two shared an immediate chemistry. She wasn’t caught off guard by the connection, but Louis-Dreyfus said she was surprised to learn about the legendary actor’s deep-rooted insecurities.

“I was fascinated to find out fairly quickly that he had a lot of insecurities about playing the part and really questioned whether he was right for the role as we were shooting it,” she told the audience at Hollywood’s ArcLight Cinemas. “He kept saying, ‘If you want to fire me, that’s fine.’ … He was just a very sympathetic person, not at all Tony Soprano-like, in fact, very similar to the character of Albert (from this film).”

Despite his anxiety, writer-director Nicole Holofcener said the former “Sopranos” leading man would deliver an unmatched performance, scene after scene.

“If he had a lot of business to do in a scene, he kind of let me know that he was never going to pull it off,” Holofcener said. “That kind of feeling of ‘I have to know the lines and perform and eat the spaghetti at the same time as pour the juice in the thing.’ In the beginning, I’d be like, ‘Oh, s**t. Maybe I should have him just sit there or whatever.’ And then, as soon as we rolled, he did it perfectly.”

The two also recalled Gandolfini’s generosity in both his professional and personal life. The actor bought the film’s PA, who stood outside by their trailers, a chair with an awning so he could be rested and protected from the sun.

Louis-Dreyfus and Holofcener, who became fast friends while working on this comedy (Louis-Dreyfus credited “Match.com or CAA” for the union), showed their comedy chops by cracking jokes the entire night.

“I was in a cab in New York and Nicole called and she says, ‘What do you think of Gandolfini,’” Louis-Dreyfus recalled. “I said, ‘Oh my god. I love him. He’s so awesome.’ Then I hung up the phone and I was next to my husband and I said, ‘I think I got this job,’ because I wasn’t sure.”

Her tag team partner then chimed in: “Not that you’re going to be in it, I just wanted to know.”

Unlike most scripts, “Enough Said” (like its star and director themselves) embraces the struggle to communicate.

“I notice that in movies, people are so articulate or smarter than their character should be or better dressed than character should be,” Holofcener said. “Everyone shouldn’t be so eloquent. I’m not. I like real.”

As the former star of “Seinfeld,” Louis-Dreyfus knows a thing or two about filming awkward scenes.

“The awkwardness thing is where I like to live as an actress,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “In addition to what’s so brilliantly put on the page by Nicole, as a director, I think she really has this great capacity to stay longer than is comfortable in a moment, which is, I think, a strength of the film, in the sense that it’s very raw and real.”

Despite their hilarious one-liners, the most memorable moment of the night came when a disgruntled audience member, who was supposed to ask a question during the end of the Q&A session, put down the film.

“I’m sorry, I’m going to be straight,” she said. “This film doesn’t deserve (Julia). Our conversations in life are much more meaningful. I don’t know how you got the funding for this film, but it’s way too shallow.”

The gasps in the almost packed house slowly turned into groans as the anonymous audience member’s insults grew more serious.

“It’s interesting ‘cause that’s not a question,” Louis-Dreyfus said. “It’s a little hostile.” “Why did you even stay?” Holofcener asked aloud, wondering why she stuck around after the screening.

Another audience member then jumped in with a question to stop the woman’s tirade. “Help me, my heart is beating,” Louis-Dreyfus said. This was one awkward moment she hadn’t bargained for.