“The Sopranos” actor Peter Riegert said James Gandolfini helped him push back against a nude scene.
Riegert said Gandolfini realized that he was uncomfortable with the scene during a table read.
“Jim recognized, on my face, that there was an actor in trouble,” Riegert recalled.
Actor Peter Riegert guest-starred as Assemblyman Zellman on seasons three and four. He told series stars Steve Schirripa and Michael Imperioli in their new book “Woke Up This Morning” that Gandolfini helped him stand up to creator David Chase over the tricky scene, which occurs on season four, episode seven.
“I show up at the [table] read and find out what I was going to be doing. The scene was Tony beating the living shit out of me with a belt, but in the scene description, it’s written that he pulls my underwear off,” Riegert recalled.
According to the actor, he was “not happy” about having to be nude for the scene, which, as originally written, featured Tony pulling down Zellman’s underwear and spanking him on the backside with a belt.
“I was going to be naked. As far as I’m concerned, I would have liked a heads-up on that,” Riegert said.
He recalled that after the table read, Gandolfini came over to check on him. When the award-winning actor learned that Riegert was unhappy with being nude in the scene, he immediately called Chase over to discuss the situation, and according to Riegert, the “Sopranos” creator reluctantly agreed to let Riegert remain semi-clothed.
“I didn’t know whether I was going to get fired or not, but Jimmy [Gandolfini] said to me, ‘Whatever you decide to do, I promise you I will have your back,'” Riegert remembered.
Per Riegert, he ultimately decided to keep his underwear on for the scene. After testing out the prop belt (made of Styrofoam) that Gandolfini was going to use on him, however, he told the late actor that he could “whale away” on him during the beating — thereby humiliating Zellman in a different way.
Riegert had nothing but praise for Gandolfini, and remembered telling him that he was a “mensch” after they wrapped filming that night.
“The thing was, at that table read, I didn’t realize that Jim recognized, on my face, that there was an actor in trouble,” Riegert said. “And he made it so it was my choice.”
“Woke Up This Morning: The Definitive Oral History of ‘The Sopranos'” is on sale now.
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