Mandy Moore worked with James Gandolfini nearly a decade ago, and the memory holds up for her.
The singer-actress played one of the late "Sopranos" star's daughters in "Romance & Cigarettes," a 2005 musical-comedy movie directed by actor John Turturro. The notion of Gandolfini tackling such a project is likely a surprise to many ... and the much more musically inclined Moore respected him greatly for it.
"It feels so difficult to say in this particular moment, but what a wonderful man," she tells Zap2it. "Even at that point, he was such an icon, and I was so intimidated to work with somebody of that magnitude and stature and talent.
"He played the father of me and Mary-Louise Parker and Aida Turturro (John's cousin, who also portrayed Janice Soprano, sister of Gandolfini's Tony), and he definitely had the warmth that you would expect from the father figure in the film."
Still, Moore notes, "I think the project was a very different one for all of us, especially for someone like him, with all the singing and dancing in this unconventional musical. But he was fantastic, just a lovely man to be around."
Oscar winners Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet and Christopher Walken also were in the "Romance & Cigarettes" ensemble -- as was someone who scored Emmy nominations for both directing and acting on 'The Sopranos," Steve Buscemi ( "Boardwalk Empire").
"It was just name after name after name," confirms Moore, who will be heard in Fox's late-night "Animation Domination High-Def" block premiering Saturday, July 27. "I was so excited to be on the set with that fantastic group that was assembled. I loved that film and the experience of making it. It is a highlight of my career that I treasure."
Gandofini died Wednesday (June 19) after suffering cardiac arrest while on a family trip to Italy. Tributes from the actor's former co-stars began pouring in following the news of his death. Notably, Edie Falco mourned her character's on-screen love story with Gandolfini's Tony Soprano.
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