‘Sopranos’ Creator David Chase’s Eulogy for James Gandolfini
Over 1,500 friends, family and fans paid tribute to James Gandolfini at the late actor’s funeral in New York on Thursday. Below is “The Sopranos” creator David Chase’s eulogy, which he wrote as a letter to the Emmy-winning TV star.
Your family asked me to speak at this service. I am so honored and touched. I’m also really scared, and I say that because you, of all people, understand this. I would like to run away and then call you four days from now from the beauty parlor. [Ed. note: That's a reference to a 2002 incident in which Gandolfini disappeared from the set of The Sopranos, eventually calling the show's production office four days later from a beauty salon in Brooklyn.]
I want to do a good job because I love you, and because you always did a good job.
I think the deal is, I’m supposed to speak about the actor, the artist, the work part of your life. Others will have spoken beautifully about the other beautiful and magnificent parts of you — father, brother, friend. That’s what I was told. I’m supposed to also speak for your cast mates, who you loved; for your crew that you loved so much; the people at HBO; and Journey. I hope I can speak for all of them and pay credit to them and to you.
Experts told me to start with a joke, recite a funny anecdote. Ha ha ha. But as you yourself so often said, “I’m not feelin’ it.” I’m too sad and full of despair. I’m running too partly because I would like to have had your advice, because I remember how you did speeches. I saw you do a lot of them at awards shows and stuff, and invariably, I think you would scratch two or three thoughts on a sheet of paper and put it in your pocket, and then not really refer to it. And consequently, a lot of your speeches didn’t make sense.
I think that could happen here. Except in your case, it didn’t matter if it didn’t make sense because the feeling was real. The feeling was real. The feeling was real. I can’t say that enough.
I tried to write a traditional eulogy, but it came out like bad TV. So I’m writing you this letter and I’m hoping it’s better. But it is being done to and for an audience, so we’ll give the funny opening a try. I hope it is funny. It is to me; I know it is to you.
One day toward the end of the show, fourth season — four or five — we were on the set shooting a scene with you and Steven Van Zandt. I think the setup was that Tony had received news of the death of someone and it was inconvenient for him. And it said, “Tony opens the [refrigerator] door angrily, and Tony starts to speak.” And the cameras rolled, and you opened the refrigerator door, and you slammed it really hard. You slammed it hard enough that it came open again. And so then you slammed it again, and it came open again. You kept slamming it, and slamming it, and slamming it, and slamming it. You went apeshit on that refrigerator.
And the funny part for me was, I remember Steven Van Zandt — because the cameras were going, and we had to play this whole scene with the refrigerator door open. And I remember Steven Van Zandt staying there, standing, and trying to figure out, “Well, what should I do first as Silvio? Because he just ruined my refrigerator.” And also as Steven the actor, because we were going to play a scene with the refrigerator door open; people don’t do that. And I remember him going, sort of trying to tinker with the door, fix the door.