Back before the days of steamy Netflix dramas and Robert Pattinson ferociously jacking it to a carved mermaid figurine, onscreen masturbation wasn’t something you saw too often, even in the most risqué TV dramas of the day on HBO. While depictions of various partnered sex acts had become run of the mill in shows like Sex and the City, solo sex still remained something of a taboo, one the late Sopranos star James Gandolfini wanted nothing to do with.
According to the new book Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers, Gandolfini threw a veritable “tantrum” over a masturbation scene show writers had planned for his character in the sixth season The Sopranos. The scene reportedly involved Gandolfini jacking off in a gas station bathroom, and the actor was apparently vehemently opposed to performing it.
Eventually, however, Gandolfini — who once claimed he showered after filming Sopranos scenes because he felt “dirty” — relented and agreed to film the raunchy gas station jerk-off scene. Fortunately for Gandolfini — if unfortunately for Sopranos fans who may have wanted to watch Tony pleasure himself in a gas station bathroom — the scene was cut from the final version of the episode and never made it to air.
According to Tinderbox author James Andrew Miller, such vehement protestations on Gandolfini’s part weren’t uncommon, nor were they unique to masturbation scenes. Per an excerpt of Miller’s book published in New York magazine this week, Gandolfini was prone to “fitful bouts of disruptive incredulousness as he reacted to certain scripts he was handed.” In response to certain scenes deemed raunchy or otherwise unseemly, the actor would reportedly dispense with the professionalism of asking showrunner David Chase if he had to perform the scene as written, and would instead simply “wonder out loud, ‘What the fuck is this?’ and then declare flatly, ‘I’m not doing it.’”
Admittedly, I find this pretty relatable, as “What the fuck is this? I’m not doing it,” is also my usual response to being asked to do my job. Still, it kind of seems like if you’re that against raunchy or otherwise provocative scenes, maybe you should’ve picked a different show to be the star of.
Regardless, may James Gandolfini and the masturbation scene we’ll never see rest in peace.
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