vulture festival 2016

James Gandolfini Did Anything for Tony Soprano, Including Pretending to Jerk Off

Vulture Festival - Milk Studios
David Chase at Vulture Festival. Photo: Cindy Ord/2016 Getty Images

Tony Soprano: mob boss, sociopath, murderer and all-around family man who was made a character of New Jersey mafia folklore in David Chase’s The Sopranos. He was a complex character, written as the “smartest guy in the room,” Chase told Vulture critic Matt Zoller Seitz at Sunday’s Vulture Festival — though most of the time that room was filled with killers. To embody Tony, Chase had only two rules: The actor must be a New York actor and Italian-American, if possible. Ultimately, though, it had to be James Gandolfini, who brought more to the iconic role than Chase could’ve ever hoped.

“If I had to think about it now, looking back, I’d have to say it was the rage — number one. And the sadness, probably two. His unprotectiveness, he did not protect himself at all,” Chase relayed, “He just laid out there — he just laid himself bare.” Gandolfini’s co-star Lorraine Bracco, who was in attendance at the event told Vulture, “I think he was half-teddy bear, half-daddy, and half-psychopath. You know, he had so much going on and Jimmy embodied a lot of those — a little bit of all of that. And that was exciting. It was exciting to go to work with him.”

“He would do anything we asked him to,” Chase praised the late actor, though he admitted it wasn’t always easy to get Ganfoldini to meet his demands. “There was a scene that you guys never saw, where he was going into the bathroom to masturbate, jerk off. We shot it and he was outraged, he was pissed off, and he did it … He did the scene though we never used it. He never came to me and said, ‘Asshole’,” said Chase to laughter from the audience. “The next time we asked him to do something, he would fuss, he would fume about it, but then he would do it.”

David Chase on Gandolfini’s Commitment to Tony