News Column

James Gandolfini remembered as indelible actor, generous man

June 28, 2013


June 28--Actor James Gandolfini was remembered Thursday as a private but generous man who, despite struggles, created one of the most indelibly iconic characters in TV history.

"The Sopranos" star's funeral at the massive Cathedral of Saint John the Divine was attended by 1,800 friends, family and fans, who streamed in on a steamy day to hear eulogies and prayers, the Associated Press reports.

He died June 19 of a heart attack in Rome at age 51.

Among those in attendance were top HBO executives and costars from the series, including Edie Falco, Steve Buscemi, Michael Imperioli, Tony Sirico, Aida Turturro, Dominic Chianese and a pregnant Jamie-Lynn Sigler; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who had lowered the state's flags to half-staff in his memory; NBC newsman Brian Williams, and fellow actors Alec Baldwin, Julianna Margulies, Chris Noth and Marcia Gay Harden.

"Sopranos" creator David Chase, addressing Gandolfini as if reading a letter, said that though he was 16 years older than the actor, "I always felt we were brothers. We had different tastes, but there were things we both love: family, work, people in all their imperfection, food, alcohol, talking, rage and a desire to bring the whole structure crashing down."

He recalled how Gandolfini once told him he simply "wanted to be a man," but "the paradox with you as a man was that with you personally, I was always seeing a young boy. That's why I think you were a great actor, because of that boy that was inside."

'Need for Speed' at Campus Martius

Motor City office workers rubbed shoulders with movie extras dressed in white-collar gear as the cross-country racing film "Need for Speed" took over Campus Martius on Thursday.

The film, based on the popular Electronic Arts video game, is shooting in the closed streets surrounding the downtown Detroit hub.

In the film sequence that was being shot Thursday, Emmy-winning "Breaking Bad" actor Aaron

Paul's character was trying to get the attention of police as a racing stratagy.

Fans spotted Paul sitting in a silver Mustang parked outside the entrance to the Compuware building, where giant light screens were positioned and crew members were immersed in shooting. Pedestrians could reach the plaza but were told to keep moving and shooed politely away from spots within close camera range.

"Aaron Paul is actually in the Mustang now," said Amanda Watson of Meridian Health Plan, who walked from the 1001 Woodward building to Campus Martius with fellow employee Vasundhara Kanuru.

A "Breaking Bad" fan, Watson got a photo of Paul in the car and was able to briefly join the parade of extras circling the plaza. "One of the guys said if you want to be in a movie just continue walking," she said.

"Need for Speed" also stars Dominic Cooper ("Captain America"), rapper Kid Cudi ("How to Make it in America") and Michael Keaton. It's being directed by Scott Waugh ("Act of Valor").

"Need for Speed" is currently scheduled to be released in 2014.

PETA awards Bell, Shepard

Can it get any better for darling metro Detroit-reared duo Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) announced Thursday that Bell and Shepard are the sexiest vegetarian celebrities of 2013.

The couple, who in March welcomed their first child (daughter Lincoln), bested sexy vegetarians like Jenna Dewan Tatum, Anne Hathaway, Edie Falco, Portia de Rossi, former President Bill Clinton, Sir Paul McCartney and "Game of Thrones" star Peter Dinklage.

"I had a hard time disassociating the animals I cuddled with -- dogs and cats, for example -- from the animals on my plate, and I never really cared for the taste of meat. I always loved my Brussels sprouts!" said Huntington Woods native Bell.

Bell, who's currently filming the movie version of her breakout TV show "Veronica Mars," and Shepard ("Parenthood") revealed on Twitter Wednesday that they're moving forward with their wedding plans following Wednesday's Supreme Court decisions to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and Proposition 8, clearing the way for same-sex marriages to be legal in California.

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-- Looking to rev up to some sugary sweet indie pop ditties from local duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.? The band is performing at 1:30 p.m. today for the Sonic Lunch free outdoor summer concert series at Liberty Plaza in Ann Arbor. But there's another just-announced opportunity to see Detroit-area natives Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott next month. Fans can sign up now for a free ticket to the Budweiser Made in Detroit party that is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. July 11 at the Fillmore Detroit. Joining DEJJ are California-based indie group Youngblood Hawke and RAC, the Remix Artist Collective known for reinterpreting popular tracks. Go to for tickets.

-- "Kids in the Hall" co-founder Kevin McDonald will be demonstrating his zany improvisational comedy techniques next month at Ferndale's acclaimed Go Comedy! Improv Theater. Go Comedy! had previously announced that McDonald will lead a two-day intensive improv, comedy and performance-based workshop beginning July 20. But now it's added an 8 p.m. July 21 performance. He'll hit the venue's stage along with stand-up comedians Mike Bobbit and Saurin Choksi and local improv troupe "The Mighty They." Tickets are $25. For more, go to


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