Because he gave TV a texture that it had lacked. Because he was ugly and completely unafraid of his ugliness. He was a stone. He was a sobbing mess. He was a lonely Dad. Because all his sufferings were reflected and refracted in the people around him. When he looks at his daughter and connects her beauty and innocence to the dead whore from the bar ,we watch him shove the feeling deep down, roll it around under the surface of his face for months to resurface in a bloody, endless beheading.
What Gandolfini did required such control and such abandon it was a high wire act. He made the actors around him electric with reaction.
Sopranos was a masterpiece because he carried the story. I happened to watch an episode recently and I was struck all over again. I was hooked on his mercies, his small victories his discoveries as a character and an actor.
I also saw this really funny English movie with an entirely forgetable name where he played a high ranking soldier whose unoffical job was to rub elbows with politicians. He was quipy and smart ass but altogether unrecognizable as Tony Soprano. I forgot how elastic he was.
I’m really sad for Mr. Gandolfini’s family. I’m sad for his public. He changed the nature of TV storytelling. He drew from a deep well. I will be watching all his work again because now that is all there is.