Thursday, June 20, 2013

Drawing James Gandolfini

During the years that The Sopranos ran on HBO, I was asked to draw the actor James Gandolfini (1961-2013) aka Tony Soprano several times. I always enjoyed rendering that large, bulbous-nosed, deadpanned mug of his. I'm saddened that I probably won't be asked to draw him again. He was by far the best truck driver who ever became an actor. Rest in Peace.
Tony Soprano threatens "President" Martin Sheen
from the New York Daily News
Speculation about The Sopranos becoming a motion picture
also from the Daily News
Tony Soprano relaxes by watching TV
from Entertainment Weekly

cover art for MAD from 2002, art directed by Sam Viviano,
a parody of the then popular TV show
  Girls Gone Wild

fellow MAD artist and friend Ray Alma shows Gandolfini the
 issue featuring my cover art...

and he looks over the issue.
 Ray Alma describes what transpired that day:
I got to meet Gandolfini when they were shooting a scene for the "Sopranos" near my house.
 He was very nice.
I showed him a recent copy of Mad with him on the cover and he got a huge kick out of it.
 He thought I said I painted it (Drew Friedman did) and he smacked me on the head with 
the rolled up magazine. I used to tell people I was "whacked" by Tony Soprano.

and more from Ray...

Gandolfini really was very nice the day I met him. Warm and friendly.
 And he honestly got such a kick seeing the magazine.
To the point that he stole it from me!
After he asked me "Why you'd make me so fucking fat!?!" (regarding the cover)

 and "whacking" me, he kept looking at it.
I was gonna ask him to sign it for me, but he got called back to the set and got up, 

shook my hand, said thanks and walked off with it.
I later saw him with some of the other cast members huddled over it and laughing. 

Tony Soprano in bed with Carrie Bradshaw
cover art for the NY Observer

Thanks to Ray Alma


  1. These are great and make me feel wistful. Thanks for putting this together. You pictures are more touching than a 100 page essay ....

  2. Drew, I don't know how you manage to make your caricatures ludicrous but affectionate, even reverential, at the same time. It's a fine line, especially with beloved TV icons. I sure wish I could do it.

    BTW, Shout Factory is possibly going to release more of "The Jack Benny Program," (and hopefully some "Burns and Allen," too) onto DVD. If they're smart, they'll get you to illustrate the covers. I can't think of a better choice.