It wasn't — not yet, anyway — the "Sopranos" follow-up a lot of viewers might have hoped for, but multiple Emmy winner James Gandolfini was slated to return to HBO before his sudden death on Wednesday.
Gandolfini had filmed the pilot episode of "Criminal Justice," a crime drama in which he played down-on-his-luck attorney Jack Stone, who scoured police stations for clients. HBO passed on the pilot as a series in February but reversed that decision in May and ordered the project as a seven-episode limited series.
"Criminal Justice," which was written by Richard Price ("The Wire"), directed by Oscar winner Steven Zaillian ("Schindler's List"), and based loosely on a 2008 BBC drama of the same name, remains in limbo with Gandolfini's passing, an HBO representative confirmed to Hollywood Reporter, while Deadline.com reports the Jack Stone character appears only in the final minute of the pilot, making a recasting possible.
Gandolfini, who was also an executive producer on "Criminal Justice," had several more TV and movie projects in the works, and he was involved both on camera and as a producer, via his Attaboy production company.
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The actor also completed a pair of big-screen films that haven't been released yet. Director Nicole Holofcener's romantic comedy "Enough Said" revolves around a woman, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who decides to pursue a man she's interested in (Gandolfini), only to find out he's the ex-husband of her new friend, played by Catherine Keener. The Fox Searchlight movie, which was filmed last fall, has no release date yet.
Gandolfini's final movie, "Animal Rescue," is a Brooklyn-set crime drama written by Dennis Lehane, and co-starring Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace. The movie, in which Gandolfini plays a bar owner, is scheduled to be released in 2014.
Holofcener told The Wrap, "I'm so heartbroken and shocked. I'm honored to have known him and worked with him. He was wonderful," while Michael Roskam, who directed "Animal Rescue," said, "It was such an honor to work with Mr Gandolfini … he was one of the greatest. I'm so sad and thinking about his family. I wanted to make him proud with the movie we made together and now it will be in his loving memory."
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A rundown of the Gandolfini works that remain in limbo after his death:
- Earlier this month, the actor signed on as executive producer of "Taxi-22," an adaptation of a Canadian comedy that originated at HBO but then moved to CBS. The show, which revolves around a cab driver and his passengers, was also going to be a starring vehicle for Gandolfini originally, though his role with the CBS version was strictly behind-the-scenes. Deadline.com reports that the project remains in development, though another producer on the show, Clark Peterson, told Deadline, "We are devastated. He was a great man and a unique embodiment of creativity, humanity, and humility. I can confirm that the development of 'Taxi-22' will continue, but we'll always be flying in the missing-man formation."
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- Gandolfini had a production deal with HBO via Attaboy and was developing another series for the network, "Big Dead Place," based on writer Nicholas Johnson's memoir of the same name about his time in the U.S. Antarctic Program. The London Times described the book as being "like 'M*A*S*H' on ice ... a bleak, black comedy."
- Via HBO Films, Gandolfini was set to reunite with his "Incredible Burt Wonderstone" co-star Steve Carell in "Bone Wars," a comedy in which the two would have played real-life, post-Civil War rival paleontologists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh.
- In another HBO Films movie, Gandolfini would have starred in and produced "Eating With the Enemy," about a New Jersey barbecue restaurant owner (Gandolfini) who tries to broker peace with North Korea via his friendship with a United Nations ambassador. The project is adapted from the book of the same name, written by Hackensack, New Jersey, barbecue restaurateur Robert Egan.
"Eating With the Enemy" is a co-production with Robert De Niro's Tribeca Productions, and Deadline.com reports that "Hangover" movies and "Community" star Ken Jeong had read with Gandolfini for a role in the movie, which might also include an onscreen performance by De Niro.
- Gandolfini was also a producer, with Oliver Stone, on "The Power Broker," an adaptation of Robert Caro's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of powerful, and polarizing, New York urban planner Robert Moses, often dubbed the "master planner" of 20th-century New York City. Gandolfini would likely have played Moses in the film, which is still in the development stages.
- As for the "Sopranos" sequel/prequel/return of some sort that some fans have been pining for, it seems impossible the project could ever happen now, but Gandolfini had joked to TMZ about the possibility of the project in May.
When a TMZ photographer caught up with the actor and his wife leaving a restaurant in Los Angeles and asked him if a "Sopranos" movie would ever happen, Gandolfini joked, "I don't know ... when ["Sopranos" creator] David Chase is broke."
See 20 of Gandolfini's best roles on TV and film: