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'Sopranos' Frank Renzulli on Gandolfini: '...a good and decent man'

James Gandolfini accepting the award for outstanding performance

James Gandolfini accepting the award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a drama series for his work in "The Sopranos" at the 14th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles. (Jan. 27, 2008) (Credit: AP )

"Sopranos" fans will certainly know this name - Frank Renzulli, one of the creative forces on the series' first couple of seasons - and a co-executive producer - who left by the third after a falling out with creator David Chase. Over the years, however, Renzulli maintained a friendship with James Gandolfini: Both working-class guys (Gandolfini from New Jersey, Renzulli from Boston) who never strayed far from their roots and found a sort of kinship in that shared bond. Both saw each other a couple of tmes a year, usually over dinner in L.A. where Renzulli lives, and briefly explored working together again. That was not to be.   

I spoke with Frank this morning, who had this to say about his old friend:

"A few years ago I had serious health issues and it took me out of the game, and like everyone else I felt the effects of the whole mortgage thing [and] I got a call and it was Jimmy. He called and said 'what do you need?' and threw up a number I could never say yes to...

"I was clearly not that close to him that he should feel any reason for responsiblity but I dont think it mattered much that he knew me - it was my situation that he was a ware of and he reached out. That's the type of guy he was. He truly was a decent and honorable guy...He was a little like Frank Sinatra. All those stories that you've heard over the years - that Frank gave people a helping hand unsolicited and unheralded, and I know that happens to be true about Sinatra because I knew his accountant...

"Jimmy, in that regard helped a lot of people. I can't tell you who, but I know....

"He was a good and decent person who was happy as [heck] about being a new father and you knew he loved and cared very much for his son and his wife and you know that's what he lived for. He was a good and decent man. He was a good and decent man."

Tags: Frank Renzulli , James Gandolfini , The Sopranos , HBO

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