"I miss him. We miss him. I wish I would call his name and bring him to the stage."
Which is exactly what The Drop director Michael R. Roskam did from the stage of the Princess of Wales theater at the Toronto International Film Festival, where James Gandolfini’s final film held its World Premiere Friday night. With Gandolfini’s family in attendance, the director remembered "a wonderful actor, a unique artist and a great man." And when they called Gandolfini’s name in honor, the tribute was met with such a deafening applause that I’m certain – if there’s a Heaven – the powerhouse character actor heard the clapping up in the rafters.
James Gandolfini had wrapped production on Roskam’s Brooklyn-set crime thriller The Drop when he died of a heart attack last June. So the screening of The Dop at the Toronto International Film Festival served multiple purposes. It was a prized get for the fest. It was a world premiere ahead of the movie’s Sept. 12 opening. And it was a rowdy send-off from a fan base who will miss this talented man’s contributions to our cherished art form.
Gandolfini’s character in The Drop isn’t Tony Soprano, though he does hold down a seedy corner in "The Life." Playing Cousin Marv, Gandolfini runs a Brooklyn dive bar that regularly serves as the drop spot for illegal money passed around between Chechnya crime bosses. As you might expect, trouble starts to brew when Marv’s bar is held up at gunpoint. But as the story begins to unfold – and Marv’s cousin (Tom Hardy) begins to dig a bit beneath the surface – we learn just how much Marv knows about the activity that happens behind the scenes on this criminal circuit.
We’ll have a full review of The Drop closer to release. It’s a seedy, slow-burning crime story that’s made more interesting by the colorful choices of Hardy, Gandolfini and Noomi Rapace. Oh, and there’s a dog, who seems like the star of the movie.
But on Friday night, the focus fell on James Gandolfini, breathing heavy and casting a long shadow over the criminal misdoings happening on screen in The Drop. There’s a painful irony to Cousin Marv’s first bit of dialogue. He’s referencing a group of men who continue to honor a slain colleague, 10 years after the man has died. The way Marv so eloquently puts it, this group of miscreants are "screwing a corpse for free drinks," and he wonders aloud if its time for them to move on. We’re ready to move on, as well, Mr. Gandolfini, but we truly appreciated having one more chance to see you work on screen again. Rest in peace.