James Gandolfini's Last Roles and What Might've Been a Comeback

He was perhaps known only for playing Tony Soprano in a career that never exactly rose to the same heights. But upon his untimely death, Gandolfini's acting future was thriving again. Here is what's yet to come from Mr. Soprano, and projects that might have been — many of them right back home at HBO. 

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James Gandolfini was best known for playing a mobster on TV whom he stopped embodying six years ago—indeed, he was perhaps known only for playing Tony Soprano in a career that never exactly rose to the same heights, with supporting roles that followed as generals and cabinet secretaries and the voice of a lovable CGI-animated beast. But upon his untimely death on Wednesday, Gandolfini's acting future was thriving again. And while his many fans will get to see at least two posthumous film performances, there still remain those parts we'll never get to see him play, lost to other actors of lesser stature and an IMDb page lost to history. Some of these forgotten roles would have been familiar to the man who was Big Tone, like that of a New Jersey restaurant owner who deals with North Korean diplomacy. But we'll never get to see him play a 19th Century dinosaur hunter. Gandolfini was also producing projects like a remake of the Canadian TV series Taxi 22, the drama Big Dead Place (about an Antarctic research base, in which he might have starred), and even Oliver Stone's adaptation of Robert Caro's The Power Broker.

Here is what's yet to come from Mr. Soprano, and projects that might have been—many of them right back home at HBO.

The Performances We'll See Yet

Enough Said

This Nicole Holofcener film is "tentatively" going to come out next year, Steve Zeitchik of the Los Angeles Times reported. In the movie, Zeitchik explained, Gandolfini plays "a gentle, lovable soul who is just looking for love." The film stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus seeking a relationship with Gadolfini's Albert, who is the ex-husband of a character played by Catherine Keener, as Lindsay Bahr of Entertainment Weekly wrote.

Animal Rescue

If Enough Said puts Gandolfini in the world of romantic comedy, Animal Rescue sends him back in familiar territory, playing a bar owner in an adaptation of a Dennis Lehane short story. Lehane also wrote the screenplay about a bartender, played by Tom Hardy, who gets mixed up with Chechen gangsters. "In one memorable scene, Gandolfini and Hardy reportedly go back and forth on the pronunciation of names of people who come from Chechnya," the L.A. Times's Zeitchik wrote. "Gandolfini calls them 'Chechnyans' — you can almost hear Tony Soprano saying the word — and Hardy corrects him that it’s 'Chechens.'" 

The Performances We'll Never See

Eating With the Enemy

Based on a book described as what would happen if "Tony Soprano took a seat at the U.N. and tried to stop a nuclear war," Eating With the Enemy was being developed for HBO Films. The movie would tell the story of Bobby Egan, "a ribs restaurant owner, high school dropout, former drug addict and roofing contractor from Hackensack, NJ," and his dealings with North Korea and the U.S. intelligence. According to Entertainment Weekly's Anthony Breznican, screenwriter Pat Healy had been working on the script for Gandolfini for two years. Just last Friday, actually, Gandolfini met with HBO and Healy about the project. "He was getting really excited about doing it and everyone at HBO, including Len Amato, the head of HBO Films, was excited because he was excited," Healy told Breznican. 

Bone Wars

Straying from his Jersey roots, Gandolfini was attached to star opposite Steve Carell in an HBO movie about two dueling and ruthless paleontologists in the 19th Century. Gandolfini would have played Othniel Charles March to Carell's Edward Drinker.

Criminal Justice 

Gandolfini had already filmed the pilot for this series, which got a seven-episode limited series order at HBO. Though HBO had initially passed on Criminal Justice, Lesley Goldberg of The Hollywood Reporter reported that the network had come around on the show, which was to star Gandolfini as Jack Stone, described by Goldberg as "a downtrodden jailhouse attorney who frequents police stations for clients." Now it's unclear what will happen to the project, though Nellie Andreeva of Deadline said that "[a]ll sides indicated it is too soon to make decisions or even discuss the feature of the series, which had been reworked as a limited series and was yet to film any episodes beyond the pilot." Andreeva also indicated that the pilot mostly focuses on Riz Ahmed's Pakistani character accused of murder whose case Gandolfini's character takes. Gandolfini only appears at the very end.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.