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<p>James Gandolfini</p>

James Gandolfini

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

My brief encounter with James Gandolfini

Sometimes meeting your heroes works out great

“I’m Jim.”

That’s how James Gandolfini introduced himself to me and a friend when we approached— okay pounced— on him at a intimate party  in October.

We were at a private screening in a Hollywood Hills residence for “Not Fade Away,” David Chase’s valentine to rock and roll about a group of suburban New Jersey kids in the 1960s, who form a rock band and then fall into every trap possible.

It was one of those crazy times where you’re not even sure how you scored an invitation, but you’re just glad you did. There were about 60 of us, including Chase, music supervisor Steven Van Zandt, assorted actors in the movie, and other celebrities like Joe Perry and former “The Sopranos” writer/ “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner.

After we watched the movie in the screening room, there was a buffet  and that’s when I saw him.  He was standing alone in the kitchen, eating.

I have had a lot of crushes in my life, but James Gandolfini was a big one for me. I hated that I found a character as reprehensible as Tony Soprano attractive, but credit solely went to the way Gandolfini found his soul, an inner sadness and all his broken places, and gave this inhumane character humanity (Clearly, I wasn’t alone: TV Guide placed him 28 on its “50 Sexiest Stars of All Time” list).

As the gruff father in “Not Fade Away,” Gandolfini brought the same hurt. He took a man, so shattered by his own disappointments that he poured them all over his son. He was unwilling to let his boy fly because he was so bitter that he had remained tethered to the ground and given up his dreams. In a movie that had more than its share of cliches, Gandolfini’s portrayal stood out as authentic and heartfelt (He brought that same tough exterior/marshmallow interior to Carol, whom he voiced in “Where The Wild Things Are”).

I stared at him for a bit, trying to summon up my courage, and then I decided that I may never have a chance to talk to him again. So my friend and I  walked up to him, apologized for interrupting while he was eating, and introduced ourselves. He said his name was Jim and he was happy to meet us.

We talked about the movie and his portrayal and even specific scenes, including one where he says nothing but telegraphs every bit of desperation and fleeting hope he feels simply with a look.  If you’ve seen it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

He told us the character came easily to him because he was playing his dad: all the frustration, hurt, anger, and disillusionment came from his father.  It’s one of those times when someone reveals something private to you and you don’t know whether to delve deeper or let it go. He made it clear that, as an adult, he'd made peace with his dad and understood him in a way that he didn't when he was growing up. He even asked us when we realized that our parents had to let go of some of their dreams, as if he really wanted to hear the answer. We switched to talking about his relationship with David Chase. He said it was a wonderful working one.  “David puts it all there on the page,” he said. He just had to bring it to life....as if that were the easy part.

He then asked us what we did and what brought us to the party. I told him I was a reporter, but not to worry, anything he said was off the record (well, until this point). I remember he laughed a kind of big bear laugh, and said, “I don’t give a shit,” in the sweetest possible way, like a man completely comfortable with himself. He might have said “I don’t give a f**k.” He used that word very liberally throughout our chat.

We talked about music and his upcoming roles and were in the middle of a very nice, easygoing conversation, the kind you rarely have at these types of events, when a publicist came up and stopped us so he could introduce Gandolfini to Dyan Cannon. What a true Hollywood moment.

We ceded our spot and while I was disappointed at first, I later realized it ended perfectly. There was no way I could have extricated myself because I didn’t want to, and I was probably only one moment away from breathlessly gushing a la Chris Farley’s “Saturday Night Live” character who asks if his guest remembers a certain performance and then can only muster up “That was so cool” instead of a question.

He was so nice and relaxed, generously speaking to anyone who approached, and, otherwise, hanging with his buddies. He eventually left and I was shocked to see that his wife had given birth to a baby girl the next day. He would have surely rather been home with his expectant wife that night, but instead he hung out with all of us, eager to do whatever he could to glad hand and talk about Chase’s labor of love.

I’ve met some of my musical heroes and been sorely disappointed and left wishing I’d let their music speak for them. My experience with Gandolfini couldn’t have been more the opposite. I’m so glad that I got the chance to tell him how much I appreciated his work.

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<p>James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano.</p>

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano.

Credit: HBO

Remembering James Gandolfini and Tony Soprano

The right actor in the right role transformed the way we looked at television

James Gandolfini, whose performance as Tony Soprano forever transformed the way we thought about the TV characters we invited into our living room, has died suddenly while on vacation in Rome. He was 51.

As the star of "The Sopranos," what was so amazing about Gandolfini wasn't so much the way he looked — TV had had overweight and/or balding leading men before (and at the start, Tony wasn't that big) — but the way that he acted. He was a mobster, and an unapologetic one. Tony Soprano took what he wanted, rarely cared about who was hurt in the process, and at times was more animal than man.

We had been told all our lives that we would not watch an ongoing series about such a man. A bruising, foul-mouthed giant with a dent in his forehead was the villain, not the protagonist. TV had always made compromises, always made sure that "flawed" heroes were ultimately redeemable and lovable.

Tony Soprano was not. And we loved him, often despite ourselves.

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<p>James&nbsp;Gandolfini with Delroy&nbsp;Lindo and John&nbsp;Travolta in &quot;Get Shorty&quot;</p>

James Gandolfini with Delroy Lindo and John Travolta in "Get Shorty"

Credit: MGM

James Gandolfini always made an impact, as character actor or leading man

From 'Get Shorty' to 'Zero Dark Thirty,' he always made you sit up and take note

I finally met James Gandolfini last year. It was Paramount's Christmas party at Spago in Beverly Hills and he was there with his "Killing Them Softly" director Andrew Dominik. He was, in a word, imposing. I shook his hand and it engulfed my own. He seemed incredibly unwilling to suffer a fool and I loved that about him, as I do people like Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, etc. But he was willing to engage, willing to give a glimpse of that soft-center.

Now, suddenly, he's dead. A heart attack in Italy. Too soon doesn't begin to say it, but as the news makes its way across the wires I find myself, as we always do at times like this, thinking back on the work. And Gandolfini had a wealth of it. You see, he wasn't always this star, this "name." He made his hay as a character actor in film after film, always leaving a deep impression, long before "The Sopranos" came calling.

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<p>Robin Thicke</p>

Robin Thicke

Credit: AP Photo

Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' remains atop the Billboard Hot 100

Imagine Dragons sets a record with 'Radioactive'

Blurred Lines” from Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell remains at No. 1 for a second week on Billboard’s Hot 100. It is also the No. 1 song on Billboard’s Digital Songs chart, with 371,000 downloads sold, as well as on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and the R&B Songs charts.

Pharrell is also featured on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” which rises 3-2, making Pharrell the first artist in four years to have songs at No. 1 and No. 1.  Black Eyed Peas achieved the feat as the main artists in 2009 with “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling,” according to Billboard.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Can’t Hold Us” featuring Ray Dalton falls 2-3, while Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” moves 6-4, finally hitting the top 5 42 weeks after it first appeared on the chart and setting a new mark for the longest climb into the Top 5.  “Radioactive” drops Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors” down one spot to No. 5.

Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” also slides down one place to No. 6 (while staying atop Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart for a 16th week). The remainder of the Top 10 stays the same: Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason” featuring Nate Ruess is at No. 7, Selena Gomez’s “Come & Get It” at No. 8; Ariana Grande’s “The Way” featuring Mac Miller at No. 9 and Icona Pop’s “I Love It” featuring Charli XCX at No. 10.
 

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<p>James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano</p>

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano

Credit: HBO

James Gandolfini is dead


James Gandolfini is dead at 51
"The Sopranos" star suffered an apparent heart attack while in Italy, HBO confirms. Gandolfini was vacationing in Italy and it was recently announced that he would return to HBO to star in the limited series "Criminal Justice." Gandolfini is survived by, his wife, a daughter born last year and a teenage son. PLUS: Gandolfini spoke to TMZ just 1 month ago. Watch Gandolfini win his first Golden Globe and first Emmy, Hollywood reacts to his death, Anthony Jeselnik jokes about it, and watch Gandolfini sing, listen to Kathy Griffin's encounter with Gandolfini, watch him on "Inside the Actor's Studio." Also, his death will ensure that Tony Soprano "will forever be indelibly etched to him."


David Chase: "He was a genius"

"Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that," says "The Sopranos" creator, in a statement. "He is one of the greatest actors of this or any time. A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes."

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<p>The cast of &quot;The Neighbors&quot; perform Alan Menken's song.</p>

The cast of "The Neighbors" perform Alan Menken's song.

Credit: ABC

Emmys: Alan Menken aims for the elusive EGOT

Veteran composer could complete the set with a song for sitcom 'The Neighbors'

Earlier this month, as Kris reported, Cyndi Lauper got herself one Oscar away from joining the elite club of EGOT winners -- those over-achieving individuals who have managed to win competitive Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Awards over the course of their careers. It is, needless to say, a pretty rare achievement: Scott Rudin became the most recent EGOTist with a Grammy win last year.

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FX greenlights Kelsey Grammer-Martin Lawrence comedy


FX greenlights Kelsey Grammer-Martin Lawrence comedy
They'll play mismatched Chicago lawyers in a deal that's much like Charlie Sheen's "Anger Management." FX ordered 10 episodes, with an option of picking up 90.


Showtime teams with John Legend for a comedy about music managers

The project will be based on the experienced of Legend and his real-life manager.


Charlie Sheen vs. Dan Harmon
Who is TV's biggest ingrate?


"Homeland" will feature less Brody next season
As exec producer Alex Gansa explains, "He is the most wanted man on the planet. By definition, he’s going to be hiding somewhere. And if he's hiding, that limits what he can do."


"The Bachelor" creator launches a dating app with Chris Harrison

Will you get better results with "At First Sight" than producers have gotten in 26 seasons of "The Bachelor" and "Bachelorette"?


"Nashville" loses its music guru
T Bone Burnett, who is married to creator Callie Khouri and oversaw more than 100 original recordings, has opted not to return for Season 2.


Cher wished there was a show like "The Voice" when she was young

"This is amazing," she says, "when you have actual people who have been in the business, been successful and want to help you. You can bypass a lot of trashy stuff."


Aaron Paul will mark the end of "Breaking Bad" in a cemetery
He's hosting a finale party at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which hosts film screenings.


"America's Got Talent" ringer?: Country-singing carpenter already had a major record deal
Turns out Marty Brown, who performed on the season premiere, released three albums through MCA in the '90s. He also performed on the Grand Ole Opry.


Sienna Guillory out at "Believe"
The British actress is being written out of the NBC J.J. Abrams drama.


Jerry Seinfeld still insists those cars in "Comedians in Cars" aren't his
"We mostly borrow them from generous car clubs," he tweeted.


Chris Hardwick hosting a Comedy Central game show called "Midnight"
The comedian/podcaster's show is described as "a rapid-fire game show inspired by the darkest recesses of social media."


OWN announces summer premiere dates

"Oprah: Where Are They Now?" returns July 28.


"New Girl" star and "Parks and Rec" star couple up for music video

Watch Jake Johnson and Aubrey Plaza in Uptown Sound's "Rouse Yourself" video.


"Homeland's" David Harewood among "Doctor Who" possibilities

The 47-year-old British actor has seen his odds go up recently. PLUS: Julian Rhind-Tutt also tipped for "Who," and read a "Doctor Who" fan's obit.


Heather Locklear: There's a lot of Amanda Woodward in my new "Franklin & Bash" character
"The character was already pretty laid out for me, and I'm just adding what I would do on a daily basis in my acting," she says.


HBO rejects Michael Chabon's WWII pilot, but FX may pick it up
Darren Aronofsky was originally set to direct "Hobgoblin," in which magicians and conmen use deception to take down Hitler.


"Futurama" tonight kicks off its final episodes

After 14 years, the once-canceled show is humming along on Comedy Central. PLUS: Billy West considers "Futurama" his career high point, and David X. Cohen compares cancelations.


How "Mad Men's" Sally Draper coped with smoking

"I caught on," says 13-year-old Kiernan Shipka. "We did enough takes that by the end of it, I was like, 'Oh, I’m a pro at this now. I can do this.' Everyone was all, 'No, you’re not a pro at it quite yet.'" PLUS: Linda Cardellini says "Sally Draper" didn't witness what she witnessed.


"The Late Show" tries Vine

Watch Monday's Letterman show in six seconds.


Spike TV's new MMA reality show finds inspiration from "The Voice"
"Fight Master: Bellator MMA" will also use four judges/coaches in comfy chairs, but no blind auditions.


"Desperate" Doug Savant lands on "Rizzoli & Isles"
He'll pay a visit to the TNT series in Season 4.

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<p>Miley Cyrus in &quot;We Can't Stop&quot;</p>

Miley Cyrus in "We Can't Stop"

Watch: Miley Cyrus dons a grill and twerks in 'We Can't Stop'

What else should you put in a piñata?

There's a lot riding on Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop" because it's Brand Building Season for the artist formerly known as Hannah Montana. As the first single from her next album, "We Can't Stop" arrived around the same time she was voted Sexiest Woman an Maxim, months after she led the hook on a new Snoop Dogg song, and is brandished as front-page tabloid fodder. Her success as a post-teen pop artist hinges on this, her first teen-ish single of this new Miley era.

"We Can't Stop" sets the table on that brand. I can't swallow everything that's served.

In the first frames, we see the singer putting a grill on her teeth and having sex with the air in skin-tight clothes. She's partying with friends in the pool, in the Hollywood hills, dorking around with lavishly silly party favors and then of course there's twerking. For 20 different shots of Miley Cyrus sticking her tongue out, go no further than this video and if you're trying to create a meme from thin air, take some tips from the piñata, the grown man sucking his thumb, crotch smoke and the knit cap with the death veil on it.

Cyrus looks very beautiful. She isn't above trying on seriously daring (and somestupid) fashion, but I like the freedom she has with her body and dressing it up in some fun ways. The colors are ON and the extras are hot.

Then taking from the page that all young female singers apparently must: writhe needlessly, touch yourself, strip-tease and, hell, why not just make-out with a miniature mannequin version of yourself. For a song so carefree as "We Can't Stop," she and her directors seem to be trying too hard on the gif-ready male gaze front. This brand opportunity reveals little on who Miley Cyrus actually is. Not that the song does us any favors there, either.

Start "We Can't Stop" below.

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<p>&quot;Out of the Furnace&quot;</p>

"Out of the Furnace"

Credit: Relativity Media

Soot-filled teaser poster for 'Out of the Furnace' plays up heavy-hitting cast

The film was recently re-scheduled for a November 27 release date

When it was announced this week that Relativity has moved the release date of Scott Cooper's "Crazy Heart" follow-up "Out of the Furnace" from October 4 to November 27, I wondered what that might mean for the film's original film festival circuit plans. And indeed, as I hear it now, the plan is to skip that altogether and keep the mystery going until it hits screens in a post-Thanksgiving frame that has done well for recent Oscar players like "The King's Speech," "The Artist" and "Silver Linings Playbook."

Of course, all of those films built word of mouth at Toronto, and this is a star-studded film that therefore plays well to that environment. So things could change. Relativity, per president Robbie Brenner's quote, sees awards in this film's future and that's all certainly part of the box office strategy, too (as it always is). It'll be interesting to see how it navigates the always crowded waters of that late-November, early-December frame.

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<p>&quot;House of Cards&quot;</p>

"House of Cards"

Credit: Netflix

Emmys: Netflix's 'House of Cards' and 'Arrested Development' could destroy voters’ willful ignorance

The whole of current series are at their fingertips

By now it’s clear the Emmy voting process is standardized, and flawed. Shows submit key episodes on DVD to anyone with a ballot, meaning that if voters aren’t keeping up with a series, they have only this one disc to bring them up to speed. This presents obvious problems for heavily serialized shows, and might be why "The Wire" never received any Emmy love.

The trick, it seems, is to push a show that those voters are probably watching anyways, which might explain all the "Mad Men" and "Homeland" victories. Emmy voters seem to be willfully ignorant of shows they haven’t heard about 100,000 times, quality aside. They rally behind "Game of Thrones," but can’t even throw "Happy Endings" a bone.

But there’s a new player in the game. This year, Netflix released two series that have serious Emmy potential: "House of Cards," starring Kevin Spacey and directed/co-produced by David Fincher, and the long-awaited fourth season of "Arrested Development." There have been original shows on streaming sites in the past (Hulu’s "Battleground," anyone?), but these two are the first ones with serious production quality and a deafening buzz even noise-cancelling headphone-wearing Emmy voters can hear.

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"Drop Dead Diva"

 "Drop Dead Diva"

Credit: Lifetime

'Drop Dead Diva' creator Josh Berman talks about resurrecting his TV show

The upbeat show creator says fighting cancelation 'was exciting, really'

It seems only fitting that a TV show about a character who cheats death would itself come back to life after cancelation. That's exactly what happened to Lifetime's "Drop Dead Diva," which returns for a fifth season Sun. June 23 at 9:00 p.m. despite having been given the axe after last season wrapped -- and just as the show had tossed in a direction-changing twist. Needless to say, fans mourned first -- and started campaigning next.

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HBO let Aaron Sorkin re-shoot 'The Newsroom's' 1st two Season 2 episodes


HBO let Aaron Sorkin re-shoot "The Newsroom's" 1st two Season 2 episodes
Sorkin tells The Hollywood Reporter: "I doubt HBO's going to be happy with my telling you this, but I got off to a false start with Season Two... With my hat in my hand, I went to HBO and said, 'Would it be all right if I started again? I know it's going to cost time and it's going to cost a lot of money.'"


"Veronica Mars" brings back Max Greenfield
The "New Girl" star will reprise his role as Deputy Leo.


"The Soup" to probe "The Bachelor" with spinoff "The Soup Investigates"

Joel McHale will be joined by a team of "reporters" in the spoof of investigative shows.


"Psych" adds Loretta Devine and Peggy Lipton

They'll appear in Season 8, starting with the 5th episode.


Howard Stern "grills" Matt Lauer
On his manhood, on his favorite "Today" co-anchor, but not Ann Curry.


Watch Heather Locklear & Jane Seymour kiss

From tonight's season premiere of "Franklin & Bash."


Will "Community" get a 6th season? Is Donald Glover's future in doubt?
Why did Sony bring back Dan Harmon? Because he was the best chance that the Sony had of extending the series beyond next season, thus increasing syndication profits, according to Josef Adalian. But "Community" may have a Donald Glover problem. Though he is signed on for Season 5, reports Adalian, Glover is "still making noises about not wanting to return for the full fifth season, even with Harmon back in the fold, so he has more time to pursue his Childish Gambino career."

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