Few actors can inhabit a character like James Gandolfini. No matter the size of his role, Gandolfini could elevate a scene and the performances of those around him. There were always going to be projects that yearned for his presence.
But when the Emmy-winning star of The Sopranos died unexpectedly Wednesday at age 51, he did leave behind at least two completed performances: Enough Said, a romantic dramedy by director Nicole Holofcener and the Brooklyn-based crime thriller Animal Rescue.
Fox Searchlight’s Enough Said centers on Eva, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, a woman fresh off a divorce. Eva befriends another recent divorcée, Marianne, played by longtime Holofcener collaborator Catherine Keener, while also deciding to pursue a relationship with Gandolfini’s character Albert, described in a statement as “a sweet, funny, like-minded man.” Unfortunately for Eva, Albert happens to be Marianne’s ex-husband.
The project shot in Los Angeles in August and September of 2012. Producer Anthony Bregman, who has worked with Holofcener since her first feature, called the story “funny” and “heartbreaking,” and said in a statement that “it’s as full of life and truth as plums in a plum pudding.” According to Bregman, the picture is locked, but there are no firm plans for a release. Bregman told EW: “We’re all so saddened and shocked by today’s news — James was a true talent and a fantastic person.”
This was Holofcener’s first time working with Gandolfini. Before filming commenced she said in a statement “I’m very excited and can’t wait to start working with these hilarious and wonderful actors.”
Animal Rescue, also a Fox Searchlight production, wrapped its Brooklyn shoot more recently. Based on a Dennis Lehane short story found in his Boston Noir collection, Animal Rescue tells the story of a bartender (Tom Hardy) who rescues a pit bull and becomes unwillingly entangled with the dog’s mob-affiliated owner. Gandolfini plays Hardy’s character’s cousin and the owner of the bar where he works.
Michael Roskam, who was nominated for a 2012 foreign language Oscar for his film Bullhead, directed the picture, and offered the following statement: “It was such an honor to work with Mr. Gandolfini and nothing but a pleasure to see him perform. 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.” Animal Rescue is currently slated for a 2014 release.
At the time of his death, Gandolfini was also starring in the upcoming HBO series Criminal Justice.