Kristen Stewart and James Gandolfini were nearly 30 years apart in age, but in other ways, they were much closer. As costars in the 2010 indie drama Welcome to the Rileys, the two bonded over their mutual aversion to the spotlight. Perhaps not surprisingly, the introverted Stewart, 23, has remained quiet on the subject of the actor's sudden death of a heart attack at age 51 on June 19 -- until now.
In a statement to Entertainment Weekly on Tuesday, June 25, the Twilight actress shared her grief over Gandolfini's untimely demise. "When I heard of James' passing, I was in New Orleans, where we met shooting, and every memory flooded back and gutted me," she told EW. "I'll hold that time near to me forever. He was immeasurably great. My heart goes out to his beloved family." (Gandolfini is survived by his wife, Deborah Lin, their 9-month old daughter, Liliana, and his 13-year-old son, Michael, from a previous marriage.)
Welcome to the Rileys featured the actor as a grieving father who takes Stewart's character, a teenage stripper, into his home after the tragic death of his own daughter. Speaking about the Sopranos Emmy winner shortly after they completed filming on the project, Stewart told a USA Today interviewer that she had formed a very easy friendship with her costar.
"Jim was...the s--t," she said. "He's quiet. We got along well because we let it happen the way it's supposed to. It was very organic, very cool."
Gandolfini shared a similar admiration for his friend and colleague. "Kristen Stewart is one of the mad ones," he wrote in a November 2012 piece for Variety. "But mad in a beautiful way. And she is determined to make people mad. To show them she is more than Bella in Twilight. To show them she does burn, and smolder, and wants more out of her career and life. And smolder she does."
"She is just beginning. She is fearless. And that can be that good, and that can be very bad. But she is smart enough to handle it," he continued. "Stick around my friends, and there will be much, much more to come. Thinking about it, I am smiling already."