If James Gandolfini insists on shaking down HBO for more dough, maybe
the cable network ought to just let the Sopranos star go ahead and
take a powder. After all, it's not like series leads can't be replaced. (Was
anyone but Valerie Harper really sorry when NBC gave Valerie's Family to Sandy Duncan? Didn't think so.) Plus, in the case of an award-winning character like Tony, there would be an impressive mob of actors ready, willing and eager to fill the mafioso's cement shoes. See for yourself — TV Guide Online has assembled a lineup of master thespians who would make fine made men.
Chazz Palminteri: When it comes to playing goodfellas, this guy's the best. Just look at his resumé — The Usual Suspects, Bullets Over Broadway, Diabolique. It's a veritable hit list of flicks about smooth criminals and creepy goombahs. What's more, if he keeps swilling Vanilla Coke in commercials with Simon Cowell, he's going to balloon to Gandolfini's size in no time.
Tony Danza: Although his sitcom work could serve as a blueprint for Matt LeBlanc's Friends buffoonery, the onetime Taxi driver's dramatic performances are no laughing matter. (In fact, so perfect was he on The Practice that he was awarded an Emmy nod.) So, were he to take over Gandolfini's heavy duties, surely nobody would dare to ask him who's the boss.
Michael Madsen: Anytime Hollywood execs need a toughie, they turn to Cher's ex-brother-in-law. One look at him and they can tell — he was born to be typecast as hard-nosed detectives, drill sergeants and underworld overloards.
Kelsey Grammer: At this point, Frasier is so over that every time we catch an episode, we mistake it for a syndicated rerun. So perhaps it's time that the shrink's portrayer threw in the towel and considered a project that would present him with a greater challenge than, say, 1996's Down Periscope. If it helps, we'd be willing to let the new Tony swap Dr. Melfi for Niles.
Uncle Michael: At first, you might think the patriarch of The Family's bickering clan doesn't belong on this list. "He's a reality-show contestant!" you might argue. But consider the skill with which the wannabe millionaire pretends he doesn't long to behead Cousin Mike or the revulsion he doesn't appear to feel every time he gets within focusing distance of his shrewish wife, Aunt Donna. Take note, Gandolfini — that's acting!
Will Sasso: Despite the fact that the Mad TV funnyman perfected his Gandolfini impersonation for knee-slapping Sopranos skits, there's an intensity in his eyes that suggests that, were he to order someone whacked, we'd gasp, not giggle. In our book, that's reason enough to think that the plus-sized Less Than Perfect semi-regular might be just perfect to step in as Tony.
Stanley Tucci: One of his generation's unsung geniuses, the Road to Perdition gangster could at last be given his aria, so to speak, by The Sopranos. If nothing else, at least he's guaranteed to have chemistry with Tony's estranged wife, Carmela — he and Edie Falco bared all as unlikely lovers in a recent Broadway revival of Frankie and Johnny at the Clare de Lune.
Anthony LaPaglia: The Without a Trace sleuth was reportedly HBO's second choice to play Tony, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out why. As a polite mobster, the thesp kidnapped 1990's Betsy's Wedding from bride Molly Ringwald. He then went on to cement his status as one of Hollywood's go-to hitmen with roles in 1994's The Client and 1995's Bulletproof Heart. His only problem would be coercing CBS into whacking that ironclad Trace contract.
Andy Garcia: Sure, the matinee idol is a little handsome to sub for
average-Joe Gandolfini. But you can't beat his credentials — he was in
The Godfather, Part III, for Pete's sake. (Okay, so technically being
in part one or two would have been way cooler.) More importantly, he's
one of the few contenders to bring to the table the powerful presence
required of volatile Tony nominees.
Now it's your turn, readers. Click here to gang up and vote for the Tony recast you'd prefer.