Monday, March 24, 2008

James Gandolfini: From Mobster to Mayor

James Gandolfini

With his hard-fought and fascinating performance as Tony Soprano in the well-known HBO series, James Gandolfini nearly typecast himself as the perfect Italian crime boss - the series was 86 episodes long, and he was just that good. Much to the actor's delight - he once said of his mobster-in-therapy character, "it's a relief to let him go" - Gandolfini is taking on an altogether different role that should certainly balance his seasoned bad-guy persona. Variety tells us that Gandolfini will play the role of New York City mayor in Tony Scott's The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three.

The summer of 2009 film is actually a remake of the original 1974 flick of the same name. The story surrounds a hijacked New York City subway train in which the bad guys demand a large sum of money. In 1974 that sum was a wimpy $1 million. Of course, I suspect that figure will be updated to a much more profound amount.

Denzel Washington is also part of the cast, playing the NYC cop set against John Travolta who leads the group of hijackers. Not a bad, heavy-weight pairing. If I'm not mistaken, Travolta's last romp as a brazen bad guy was in 2001 with Swordfish. (I really enjoyed that film for all sorts of shallow reasons.) As for Washington…well, he's often played the can-do cop.

Gandolfini will obviously sit above these two, representing the City's interests and affinity for red tape. He will reprise the role portrayed by Lee Wallace in the original. I'm anxious to see Washington and Gandolfini go at it, as they most likely will argue how best to resolve the situation and deal with the hijackers.

Gandolfini has lain relatively low since departing "The Sopranos." However, he has a number of projects slated in the next few years that will surely chip away at the tortured mobster image. For instance, the actor just finished work on Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are, which is also due out in 2009. But are we happy that Tony, err, Gandolfini is stepping away from being a bad guy?

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