'My best friend': James Gandolfini's son's sweetest tributes to him on the 5th anniversary of the 'Sopranos' star's death

James Gandolfini’s sudden death — 5 years ago today — left a void in Hollywood. We’ll always wonder what else the talented Sopranos star would have gone on to do.

Clearly, the bigger void was the one felt by his family, including his only son Michael Gandolfini, who was with him on a father-son trip in Rome when he suffered a heart attack. (They were celebrating Michael’s graduation from junior high.) Five years is a long time in the life of a child and, well, Michael is no longer one. He’s an 18-year-old college student at NYU‘s Tisch School of the Arts, an aspiring actor who had a role in Ocean’s 8  (more on that later), with a girlfriend, and he’s remained close to his dad’s Sopranos co-stars — just some of the life events he shares on Instagram.

But in between his current posts are many sweet tributes to his late dad, whom he has called his “best friend in the whole world.” As we remember “Jimmy” today, let’s look at some of them…

On Sunday, Michael, who is from James’s first marriage to Marcy Gandolfini, remembered his dad on Father’s Day as “the funniest and one of the most loving Dad’s that’s ever set foot on this Earth.” He talked about how he wished he could give him a bear hug — “in return for the million that you have [sic] me when I needed it.”

On James’s last birthday, when he would have been 56, Michael wrote about following in his dad’s footsteps into acting and being sad not to be able to share it with him. Though he revealed advice his father had given him when he was feeling down: “cowboy up” and “push through.”

On this day, he was just missing his “best friend.”

Michael has also called him his “hero.”

More sweet sentiments — around Christmas 2016.


Many of the posts are lighter, showing a funnier side of James, who became best known to audiences as a ruthless mafioso. When celebrities were sharing their first headshots a few months back, Michael posted his dad’s, which is amazing.


And we’re so glad to see this silly piggy pic.

This picture makes me so happy, I can hear his goofy chuckle

A post shared by Michael Gandolfini (@mgandolfini) on Jul 27, 2017 at 2:36pm PDT


The best pictures though are just of father and son together. Here they are clowning around.

#tbt to the best clowns ever 🤡

A post shared by Michael Gandolfini (@mgandolfini) on Jan 18, 2018 at 6:54pm PST


Walking around NYC together, where Michael is carving out a life of his own.

#tbt to bobbin’ around in the city

A post shared by Michael Gandolfini (@mgandolfini) on Feb 1, 2018 at 12:08pm PST



A post shared by Michael Gandolfini (@mgandolfini) on Jul 23, 2017 at 12:36pm PDT


James as Michael’s “jungle Jim.”

Dad is my jungle "Jim"

A post shared by Michael Gandolfini (@mgandolfini) on May 31, 2017 at 7:19pm PDT


“Now he’s looking over me,” he wrote for this.

Now he's looking over me. He's always got my back. Love you dad.

A post shared by Michael Gandolfini (@mgandolfini) on Nov 14, 2016 at 3:53pm PST


The caption on this was just “Dad” and a bunch of hearts.


A post shared by Michael Gandolfini (@mgandolfini) on May 15, 2017 at 4:39pm PDT


There are lots of photos of Michael visiting his dad on the set too.

Hustler from day one. Always learning. #tbt

A post shared by Michael Gandolfini (@mgandolfini) on Feb 15, 2018 at 6:19pm PST


Michael shared the story of this one, snapped on the Sopranos set. “My dad called my mom and told her that I had to come to set ASAP. When I got there, there was a enormous black bear! I have a picture with me my dad and the bear too!” he wrote. “it was a great day.”

ROAR #tbt

A post shared by Michael Gandolfini (@mgandolfini) on Feb 22, 2018 at 5:13pm PST


This one could be from 2006’s All the King’s Men, which filmed a lot in Louisiana.

#fbf to the Louisiana bayou

A post shared by Michael Gandolfini (@mgandolfini) on Mar 23, 2018 at 7:24pm PDT


As mentioned, Michael has the acting bug. He recently had a role playing a bus boy in the Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett heist flick Ocean’s 8. Not too shabby. He shared a few photos from the set, in one describing himself as “honored.” He’s also appeared in three episodes of HBO’s The Deuce, and was in Law & Order True Crime (starring Mrs. Soprano herself, Edie Falco!), but was cut from the final version.

Day 1 so honored

A post shared by Michael Gandolfini (@mgandolfini) on Feb 8, 2017 at 6:57pm PST


Michael has attended charity events in honor of the causes his father supported — like the Wounded Warrior Project. He supported his father’s last film project, The Drop, walking the carpet with his mother and stepmother, Deborah Lin, who’s the mother of his half-sister, Liliana Gandolfini, 5. (Gandolfini left the bulk of his $70 million estate to his two children, but in a trust until they turn 21.)

Michael Gandolfini with his mother, Marcy Gandolfini, and stepmother, Deborah Lin, at The Drop New York Premiere at Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema on September 8, 2014 in New York City. (Photo: Jenny Anderson/WireImage)

And it was like a mini Sopranos reunion last September when Michael caught up with Steve Buscemi, Aida Turturro, and Lorraine Bracco at a party for Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 9.

Michael Gandolfini with his father’s Sopranos co-stars Aida Turturro and Lorraine Bracco at the after party for Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 9 premiere at TAO Downtown on September 27, 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

It’s nice to see that not only is he going places, but he’s still surrounded by love while he does it.

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