Is there an actor who’s been taking on more colorful roles lately than James Gandolfini? In the last few months he’s been a blitzed-out hit man (“Killing Them Softly”), self-promoting casino magnate (this weekend’s “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone”), hectoring immigrant dad (“Not Fade Away”). And, oh yeah, Leon Panetta (“Zero Dark Thirty”).
Gandolfini is adding another notch to that list. According to a person familiar with the production who was not authorized to talk about it publicly, he’ll play opposite Tom Hardy — will play Hardy’s cousin, actually — in “Animal Rescue,” the new movie written by Dennis Lehane that Fox Searchlight is just beginning to shoot.
Gandolfini will star as the owner of a bar that Hardy’s character works at. As this is the man who came to fame as Tony Soprano, it’s a place, fittingly, owned by the mob (Chechen, but still). And as this is a Lehane script, the vise gets tighter after Hardy’s character finds a pit bull, which also brings him together with Noomi Rapace, who plays the female lead.
Producers, said the person, have also brought on another actor with crime-film chops: John Ortiz. Ortiz msot recently starred as Bradley Cooper’s buddy in “Silver Linings Playbook” but has had colorful roles in crime movies such as “Miami Vice” and “American Gangster.”
“Animal Rescue” is being directed by Michael Roskam, who had another animal-themed crime film in “Bullhead,” a nominee for the foreign-language Oscar back in 2012.
Gandolfini goes leading-man in Nicole Holofcener’s untitled upcoming romantic dramedy opposite Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“I don’t get called for that kind of thing, you know, the parts when you get to kiss the girl,” he told my colleague Nicole Sperling. “It’s kind of like a buffalo kissing a rabbit when I’m kissing Julia.”) It’s good to see the former “Sopranos” star called for some more enjoyable shady-but-human material too.
Follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT