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James Gandolfini: A director's take

By Michael Schulder, For CNN Radio
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Thu June 20, 2013
James Gandolfini faces down two teenage killers in
James Gandolfini faces down two teenage killers in "Violet & Daisy."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • James Gandolfini played a thief in one of his last films, "Violet & Daisy"
  • Gandolfini, 51, died this week in Italy, likely of a heart attack
  • "Violet & Daisy" director says the actor was always focal point
  • Compassionate man gave easily to friends, director says

(CNN) -- Imagine James Gandolfini as a man weary of the world -- resigned to the fact that his remaining days will be filled with regret and longing. And yet he still has hopes. He is not passive. He is trying to make things right until the very end.

This is not the Gandolfini of "The Sopranos." It's one of his last projects, "Violet & Daisy." Though completed in 2011, the film only gained a significant U.S. release earlier this month.

Official: Gandolfini probably died of heart attack

In "Violet & Daisy," Gandolfini plays a thief with no name who spends much of his time in a comfortable chair waiting to be killed. Two teenagers -- Violet (Alexis Bledel) and Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) -- are hired to murder him.

Gandolfini was never less than powerful, director Geoffrey Fletcher said Thursday. "Jim was riveting." (You can listen to a "CNN Profiles" interview with Fletcher here).

Even when the actor wasn't the focal point you couldn't take your eyes off him, Fletcher said.

Gandolfini was often still in "Violet & Daisy." But he remained, in his stillness, a man of powerful actions, Fletcher said.

Professor Michael Chaney, left, talks with director Geoffrey Fletcher, center, and James Gandolfini.
Professor Michael Chaney, left, talks with director Geoffrey Fletcher, center, and James Gandolfini.

Early on in the movie's production, he and Gandolfini met in the lounge of New York's Algonquin Hotel. They opened up to each other, talking about their struggles breaking through in the business --- the many odd jobs each took to stay afloat before getting their breaks.

Gandolfini shared a personal story, which Fletcher said he feels compelled to share because he believes it says so much about the actor's character.

A friend of Gandolfini's was in serious financial trouble and had come to him for money. It wasn't a fortune, but a significant amount. Gandolfini told Fletcher he gave his friend the money. A day later he received a check in the mail for the same amount of money for "The Sopranos," Gandolfini told Fletcher.

What goes around comes around -- including a small piece of the generous spirit of James Gandolfini.

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