These Pieces of Fan Art Are A Fitting Tribute to Tony Soprano

HBO / Getty Images
HBO / Getty Images

Yesterday, actor James Gandolfini died suddenly at the age of 51. While he played many great roles throughout his career, the one he will be best remembered for is his impressive portrayal of gangster Tony Soprano.  In honor of Gandolfini’s most famous character, there are some fantastic pieces of fan art immortalizing the intimidating waste management consultant.

Gandolfini was born to a father who was a native of Borgotaro, Italy and a mother who was born in the USA, but raised in Naples. Both of his parents were devout Roman Catholics and they constantly spoke Italian while at home. As a result, Gandolfini had close ties to his Italian heritage and often visited the country of his ancestors.

In high school, Gandolfini was voted “Class Flirt” in his school yearbook. As a teen, he played basketball and acted in school plays, though he didn’t fall in love with acting right away.

Gandolfini earned a Communications degree at Rutgers University, where he also worked as a bouncer at the student pub. After college, he moved to NYC and worked as a bartender and club manager. It wasn’t until he went to an acting class with a friend of his that he realized that he wanted to break into the business. He got his first big role in 1992, when he was cast in a Broadway revival of A Streetcar Named Desire beside Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange. His career really took off after his first big screen performance as terrifying henchman in 1993’s True Romance. While he wasn’t a main character in the film, his chilling scene with Alabama was one of the most memorable parts of the movie.

In 1995, he worked with the director of True Romance again, this time in Crimson Tide. Again, he played an intimidating tough guy. As The Daily Beast points out, “Gandolfini, again, stole every scene he was in as the imposing henchman who had no problem doing Capt. Ramsay’s dirty work.”

"He was a genius. Anyone who saw him even in the smallest of his performances knows that," David Chase, who created The Sopranos, said 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."

Matthew Peyton / Getty Images

In 1995, Gandolfini starred in Get Shorty alongside John Travolta and Gene Hackman. This role gave Gandolfini his first chance to show off his comedic talents, rather than just acting as an intimidating monster. Of course, it was Gandolfini’s role in The Sopranos that made him truly famous. The show premiered in 1999 and lasted six seasons. In all, there were 86 episodes showing the difficulties faced by mob boss Tony Soprano as he tried to balance his position in organized crime and his role within his own family. "Jimmy was the spiritual core of our Sopranos family, and I am stunned at this devastating loss," Albrecht, former CEO of HBO and current CEO of Starz, said in a statement. "He was a great talent, but an even better man. My thoughts are with his family.”

Gandolfini won three Emmys for Best Actor in a Drama out of a total six awards he was nominated for during the show’s run. Despite his critical acclaim, the actor never felt comfortable with the press. "My father always said a million times, 'We're peasants,"' Gandolfini told Rolling Stone. "It's just a little odd for me, to get that slightly different treatment sometimes. And I'm uncomfortable with it. ... I want nothing to do with privilege."

During The Sopranos' run, Gandolfini loathed that people really thought he was the cold-blooded killer he played on the show. Shortly after the show started, he once had someone knock on the door of his apartment, "So I opened the door and the guy just turns white," Gandolfini said in a magazine interview. "All of a sudden I realize, 'Oh ... he thinks I'm Tony."'

Matthew Peyton / Getty Images

While the role was an easy one for him to take on—"I'm playing an Italian lunatic from New Jersey, and that's basically what I am," Gandolfini said—the character was drastically different from the real-life personality of the actor, who described himself as "a 260-pound Woody Allen." After The Sopranos ended, Gandolfini tried to shake his mobster image, playing the director of the CIA in Zero Dark Thirty, a comedic Senior Military Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Defense in In The Loop, gentle monster Carol in Where The Wild Things Are, and a strict, blue-collar father in Not Fade Away.

Gandolfini always maintained a sense of humor about his work, and he loved taking on comedic roles, once quipping, “The older I get, the funnier-looking I get, the more comedies I’m offered. I’m starting to look like a toad, so I’ll probably be getting even more soon.”

Writer, director and producer Steve Zaillian expressed his grief about Gandolfini’s death, saying, "I worked with Jim before The Sopranos and after it, and throughout these many years he has always been the same man. A real man, like they don’t make anymore. Honest, humble, loyal, complicated, as grateful for his success as he was unaffected by it, as respectful as he was respected, as generous as he was gifted. He was big, but even bigger-hearted. I’m so saddened to lose my friend, and sadder still for his family." The actor was in Italy this week to attend the 59th Taormina Film Fest in Sicily, where he was scheduled to participate in an event this weekend with Italian director Gabriele Muccino.

Gandolfini is survived by his wife, Deborah Lin, who just gave birth to a baby girl last October. He also has a son from a previous marriage, who was born in 2002.

Yesterday the world lost a truly gifted and humble actor. Friends, family and fans will mourn his loss for years to come.

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Someone Created an Amazing LEGO Portrait of Fleabag's "Hot Priest" Andrew Scott

Andrew Scott as the "Hot Priest" in Fleabag.
Andrew Scott as the "Hot Priest" in Fleabag.
Amazon Studios

It’s been almost a year and a half since fans first met the “Hot Priest”—a role created specifically for actor Andrew Scott—in season 2 of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s award-winning series Fleabag, and the character is still eliciting strong feelings and inspiring tributes of all kinds.

The latest creative tribute to the G&T-guzzling man of the cloth is a portrait assembled entirely from LEGO bricks—5340 of them, to be exact. It was made by Andy Bauch, a Los Angeles-based LEGO artist who has re-created everything from Mondrian paintings to self-portraits of Chuck Close. For this pop culture masterpiece, Bauch worked off a television still that shows Scott dressed in clerical black and illuminated by sunlight filtering through a church window.

Bauch used 10 shades of blue, green, and black to capture the nameless priest in all his godly glory. According to the video above, more than half of the 38-inch-by-28.5-inch artwork consists of square black bricks with four LEGO studs each. Overall, it took nearly 10,000 studs to complete the image. What we don’t know is how long it took to complete, though the artist did have two assistants to help him.

The portrait isn’t currently for sale, but anyone with a sizable LEGO collection and a fondness for tragicomic clergymen (or more specifically, for Andrew Scott portraying one) is welcome to try their hand at fashioning some Hot Priest wall art of their own. And if that project warrants re-watching Fleabag, so be it.