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TORONTO (AFP) – Co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus and director Nicole Holofcener on Sunday recalled a very funny James Gandolfini in one of his final roles in "Enough Said," which premiered in Toronto.
"He was a clown in the best way," Holofcener told a press conference at the Toronto film festival, recalling Gandolfini as "being very focused and serious (on the job) and also acting like a crazy, foolish clown that we all fell in love with."
Having first met him a few years earlier, the director of past films "Please Give" and "Friends with Money" said they "had a similar sense of humor, (and) we kinda started teasing each other right away.
"He has a really charming way about him, cheeky."
Louis-Dreyfus, who crossed from television into movies for the first time in this film, said: "I had a couple of moments working with him where I'll admit I thought, 'I can't believe I'm looking into this face,' because what a face, you know?"
She described Gandolfini as "very self-effacing, with some insecurities that I found endearing."
"It was an exciting creative journey to take with him and I'll never forget it," she said.
Louis-Dreyfus in the movie plays Eva, a divorced soon-to-be empty nester who meets the sweetly affable Albert (Gandolfini) at a party and after a promising first date, pursue a tender courtship.
"Cast against type, Gandolfini is especially marvelous here, providing a poignant reminder of the loss his premature passing represents," film festival programmer Jane Schoettle said.
Gandolfini, a Golden Globe and three-time Emmy winner for his portrayal of emotionally vulnerable New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano, died June 19 after a heart attack in a hotel in Rome, where he was traveling with his 13-year-old son. He was 51.
Holofcener said Gandolfini seemed to be "kinda scared" of comedic genius Louis-Dreyfus at the start of shooting the film, and about "coming to a comedy. I mean who wouldn't be?"
"He had a very slow pace and (Louis-Dreyfus) does not," she said. "I think that he felt that he had to match wits with her or be as funny or be as fast."
"But once he realized that everyone was appreciating exactly who he was and what he was bringing without doing anything but do that, he would relax and be hilarious but in his own way, not in (Louis-Dreyfus)'s way."
He also improvised parts in the movie, she said.
Holofcener recalled a "very sweet and sensitive and emotional" man, who cried in a kitchen scene in the movie "and then turned to the director and said 'You made me cry like a bitch in the kitchen.'" She chuckled.
The film also stars Toni Colette and Catherine Keener.