Depending on the episode of The Sopranos, a director might need one take after another to get a shot right. And in the days when HBO shows went on actual film, that could run up production costs. John Ventimiglia recalled one such scene in which his Artie Bucco character got slapped by Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini).
After dispensing with the services of a stuntman, Ventimiglia endured about 14 unpleasant takes of Gandolfini slapping him around before they got it right. In another episode, a complicated Steadicam shot led to Edie Falco (Carmela Soprano) needing to break down in tears for seven consecutive takes.
But directors didn’t have to worry about that in scenes featuring Sal “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero (Vincent Pastore) and FBI agent Skip Lipari (Louis Lombardi). According to Lombardi, the system he and his old friend Pastore had made the Skip-Big Pussy scenes a breeze to shoot.
Louis Lombardi said his ‘Sopranos’ scenes with Vincent Pastore only required 1 or 2 takes
Lombardi, the Bronx-born actor who’s appeared in The Usual Suspects, 24, and Natural Born Killers, reminisced about playing Skip Lipari on the Talking Sopranos podcast. For Lombardi, the story began when he met Pastore (Big Pussy) as a teenager.
When Lombardi was growing up, Pastore (also from the Bronx) ran a club he used to frequent. That anecdote jogged the memory of Talking Sopranos co-host Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti). The Mount Vernon-born Imperioli also recalled visiting Pastore’s club as a young man.
So when Lombardi arrived on the Sopranos set to play scenes opposite Pastore, the two were working with a decades-old relationship. However, the dynamic had changed. Instead of the older Pastore being an uncle figure, Lombardi played the FBI agent in charge.
Regardless, Lombardi said the scenes came off like a charm. “It was so easy,” he recalled. Though he acknowledged Pastore would occasionally “big-time” him on the set, the two actors knocked out their scenes in “one or two takes.”
Pastore and Lombardi worked on ‘Sopranos’ dialogue at home and in carpools
How did Pastore “big-time” Lombardi on set? “He was like, ‘Do me favor. When we’re on set, don’t look at me. Get my coffee if you want more lines,’” Lombardi said, laughing hysterically. But he and Pastore played it straight when it came to preparing for scenes.
Their approach was simple: Rehearse early and often. Since Lombardi and Pastore continued living near one another, they’d rehearse at home together. “He lived in City Island, I lived right there. I would drive to his house, sit in his house all day, and run the lines,” Lombardi said. “Over and over.”
Lombardi and Pastore would keep it going when they carpooled to Sopranos shoots together. Considering Big Pussy and Skip always met in cars, it was perfect. “We would drive to the set together, run the lines in the car like [Pussy and Skip] did,” Lombardi said. “We rehearsed the heck out of it. It was great.”
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