And two days before The Sopranos' highly anticipated return, what moviegoers will get is a glimpse of Gandolfini in his new film, The Mexican. The comedic caper in which he kidnaps Julia Roberts from the loving arms of Brad Pitt has the Emmy winner again playing the role of a thug. However, he explains that Leroy is much more in touch with his sensitive side (read: gay) than Tony Soprano. "I wanted to do something a little different," he says. "I needed a change. I thought I was going to start thinking I was Tony Soprano."
As for the controversy surrounding The Sopranos' portrayal of Italian-Americans, Gandolfini shrugs, "I know some people in the community are unhappy, but the series doesn't show that crime pays. I don't know why they're so damn sensitive about it. I don't think anyone watching is really going to think this is what Italians are really like."
And should the actor get cornered about the controversy by angry Italians, he'll be prepared to go a few rounds. As Gandolfini reveals, his newfound celebrity has forced him to be more alert while out in public. "I can still go to the store, but now I try to look a little more awake because people recognize me," he says. "I can't just shuffle in and grab a quart of milk. I have to have a cup of coffee first."