By John Burton
SEA BRIGHT — The sudden death of James Gandolfini brought back memories for some Two River area residents about the actor who spent some time filming his hit television series along the Jersey Shore more than decade ago.
“He was a real personable guy,” said Borough Councilman C. Read Murphy on Thursday, recalling when Gandolfini was working on The Sopranos, which took him and the crew to Sea Bright for a few days.
Gandolfini, 51, died from an apparent heart attack while on vacation in Italy on Wednesday, according to published reports.
Gandolfini, a New Jersey native and Rutgers University graduate, had a noted career in film and on stage for nearly 30 years. He was most recently seen as the CIA director in last year’s Academy Award winning Dark Zero Thirty. But he’ll be best remembered for his career-defining role as the Jersey mob boss with emotional and familial strains in the immensely popular HBO series The Sopranos.
One of that series’ trademarks was incorporating New Jersey and New York locals as the backdrop for its tales of the fictional Soprano crime family in all its violence and dark humor.
During the fourth season episodes cast and crew came in 2002 to Sea Bright where they filmed a storyline about Tony and his wife and children, who lived in North Jersey, staying at a Shrewsbury River-front home at 412 Ocean Ave, while considering whether to buy it for a summer home.
While they were here, police Sgt. Kevin Lovgren had a chance to meet Gandolfini during a break in filming. What struck Lovgren was the actor’s accessibility.
“He talked to me; he talked to everyone,” Lovgren said. “He certainly wasn’t stuck up.”
Sea Bright Police John Sorrentino had a similar sense of the actor, and the other cast members. “He was really nice,” Sorrentino said. “They were all very nice when they were here.”
Murphy thought Gandolfini was “a real good guy, really funny.”
Murphy brought a bunch of local kids to where the cast and crew were working. Gandolfini was especially nice and gracious with his time with the young fans. “He was terrific with the kids,” Murphy said.
When Murphy heard that Gandolfini died of a heart attack, he just shook his head. “Nobody should die of a heart attack today,” he said. “What a shame.”