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The Sopranos: Mob Rule

The wiseguys of HBO's "The Sopranos" take a shot at another season of the award-winning show.
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
The Sopranos, Mar/Apr 01

(continued from page 3)

Gandolfini prefers not to discuss his personal life, or his family. But it has been written that he married Marcy Wudarski in 1999 and that they have an apartment in Manhattan. However, he does reveal that he is looking for a home in western New Jersey. But that's about as far as he'll go.

He also admits to a fondness for cigars, but again he declines to be specific. I very much love cigars, he says. I went to Spain with a friend about eight or nine years ago, and that's where I discovered them. I hadn't really smoked them much before, but I found them incredibly relaxing. Now I'll smoke maybe three or four a week. I'll sit in the same place and not move for 45 minutes. It's a ritual I really enjoy.

Gandolfini doesn't have a favorite brand, size or shape, he says. I like smoking a million different things. Sometimes I'll want something a little stronger, sometimes not. I'm not much of an expert, but I'll know immediately if I like something or if I don't like it. I'm still at the stage where I'm experimenting with many different cigars, and I haven't picked one that I consistently like.

One thing he really does like, he says, is his success -- despite the obvious drawbacks. All it means is that basically, I'm more tired, Gandolfini says. But other than that it's pretty much a dream come true. It's been a blessing. David has been very kind, and HBO has been very kind. Sometimes I'm not the easiest guy to get along with, and they've been very patient. It's been wonderful financially, and it's helped in every way. Artistically, I think I have a lot more choices, and whenever the series ends I hope that I'll be able to go on and make some smart choices.

Even walking down the street, or dining at a restaurant, hasn't been difficult, he says. I don't find it much of a problem in New York City. It does take a little more energy to go places because you're not going to be able to just slip into a restaurant. But I've found that if you're responsive and kind with just a word or two, people are very nice. Very seldom are they incredibly intrusive. They rarely stay there or drive you crazy. Mostly they just want to say hello real quickly, and if you say hello back it's fine.

Gandolfini, like many actors, is hesitant to talk about how he goes about getting ready for each episode and each scene. It's an intensely personal and very private technique, he says. But a visitor to the set one morning noticed that just before each take of that restaurant scene with Van Zandt, Gandolfini made a fist, tensed his muscles and banged his hand on the table three times, very hard and very noisily. Was that a way in which the actor prepared?

Sometimes when we do so much work each day, you just have to find a way to concentrate on every scene and think about exactly what you're doing, he says. And sometimes a small amount of pain will wake you up.

Tony Sirico, who portrays Paulie Walnuts, Tony Soprano's no-nonsense enforcer, woke up to the pain. As a youth, because of various crimes and misdemeanors, including several nightclub stickups, Sirico spent a total of five years taking part in what Tony Soprano once phrased as the penal experience.

I was a pretty tough kid, says Sirico, now in his late 50s, who grew up in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. I was born in the Midwood section, on Coney Island Avenue. Woody Allen lived right around the corner from me, at Avenue K and East 14th Street. But I grew up in Bensonhurst, where there were a lot of Mob-type people. I watched them all the time, watched the way they walked, the cars they drove, the way they approached each other. There was an air about them that was very intriguing, especially to a kid.

And, Sirico says, It was a miracle that I didn't wind up like them. God was good to me. He gave me a brain. I found it late in life, but I found it.

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