'I love you, dad': James Gandolfini's son pays tribute to him on the 5th anniversary of the 'Sopranos' star's death (updated)

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

James Gandolfini’s sudden death on June 19, 2013 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 a 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.

Michael Gandolfini, shown at the Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 9 premiere on Sept. 27, 2017, is an aspiring actor. (Photo: Mike Pont/FilmMagic)

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,” let’s look at some of them…

Michael was thinking of his father on Tuesday. Along with a throwback of James sitting on a bench, he wrote, “5 years without your hugs, your laugh, and [your] smile. I miss you, but today is not about me. As much as I hate that you’re gone, it in [fact] was your time. And today I celebrate you and your life. I love you dad, miss you.”


Just a few days earlier, 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 that 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.


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


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



James as Michael’s “jungle Jim.”


“Now he’s looking over me,” he wrote.


The caption on this was just “Dad” with hearts.


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


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.”


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


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


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 it’s in a trust until they turn 21.)

Michael Gandolfini with his mother, Marcy Gandolfini, left, and stepmother, Deborah Lin, at the New York premiere of  The Drop, Sept. 8, 2014. (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, left, and Lorraine Bracco at the after party for the  Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 9 premiere at TAO Downtown in New York, Sept. 27, 2017. (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.