R.I.P. James Gandolfini - June 19th 2013
When we, at the Gately Poole studio learned the very sad news that our dear alumnus, James Gandolfini had passed away, we asked ourselves, "What would Jimmy want us to do to honor his memory?" After careful reflection, we knew that he would want us to speak on behalf of the art form he loved so dearly and the training, which continues to be such a necessary component to the mastery of it. Most importantly, he would want us to speak to today’s young actors undergoing their own training. Jimmy was such a generous man and we know that he would offer his own experiences to the younger generation so that they might understand the necessity of the training and the bravery and commitment it requires of them.
The exceptional actors, the real "greats" of our time, have all been fearless in their pursuits of honing and crafting their artistry. Jimmy was no exception. He understood that it wasn't simply about being a "natural talent" or "highly instinctive" (although he was both). He knew that real, true artistry must be studied, embodied, lived through, and most importantly, revered. That philosophy carried him through his training and his entire professional career. He took risks when he chose varied and strikingly unique works, and yet, he displayed a constancy of purpose and action in each. He strove to be an extraordinary artist.
I knew he would be, too, and very early on. Jimmy was highly recommended to the Gately Poole Conservatory by Roger Bart. When Jimmy called to speak to us about an interview he said something that had never been asked of us before, nor since. He requested that we conduct the interview over a "good meal." I went to meet him at an upscale restaurant where, with great dignity and pride, he controlled the interview process for an entire forty-five minutes, when I suddenly realized who was interviewing who and then picked up the threads of the conversation and finally established a teacher-student connection. He began training with me that year.
In the classroom during his first year at the Gately Poole Conservatory he was often apprehensive and that occurred for a number of reasons: one, the challenging work, two, the high demands, and three, his deep respect and appreciation for all of his classmates skills, experiences and talent. The training was not (and is not) easy. Jimmy struggled with the imaginary world which demanded authenticity, responsiveness and expansive behavior. But Jimmy persevered. In an art form where too often young artists are asked abandon their process for the sake of product, Jimmy and his classmates were beacons of light.
His bravery to risk ego for art resulted in a profound artist who showed tremendous range, from subtle and nuanced to vivid and theatrical. He was an enigma who carried an intrinsic polarity, a wealth of power and strength but also, gentleness and vulnerability. A highly discerning man, Jimmy had the ability to access everything around him and gave generously, not only to the screen and stage, but also to his fellow actors and to the works of art, themselves.
Jimmy was proud to be part of this ancient and valuable art form. He was never ashamed of what he did. He reminded me of Humphrey Bogart and Spencer Tracy in this way. Like Tracy and Bogart, Jimmy valued the craft and spent his life developing it and would want young artists to know that mastery doesn't come naturally. It's a struggle. A joyful struggle which takes training, time, energy, and drive. Most importantly, it takes courage. We were blessed to have known a man of such courage and hope that his artistry will inspire all of you.
Thank you Jimmy.
You will be dearly missed.
The Gately Poole Conservatory