The untold story of how James Gandolfini broke down after having an unusual conversation with a wounded soldier

Jason Guerrasio

Nevins once accompanied Gandolfini as he visited injured military staying at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.At the time, “The Sopranos” actor had recently starred in and produced the HBO documentary about soldiers returning home from war, “Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq.

Nevins and Gandolfini were prepping another PTSD-related project at the time when they visited Walter Reed. Inevitably, the project would get scrapped due to the 2007 scandal at the medical center regarding the neglect of patients by the staff, which occurred soon after their visit.

However, the experience would be one Nevins would never forget.

Here’s her recollection of Gandolfini visiting patients on the traumatic brain injury ward:

“Jim came down to Washington and we went on a tour of the floor. We went in and out of rooms. He was a real celebrity, he signed stuff, he was a very good sport about it. And then we went into a room where there was a guy who had half a head and his mother was reading the Bible and sitting there and she said, ‘Oh, my son loves you, he thinks you're the best, he just loves everything you do.’ She said, ‘Talk to him, tell him to get better.’ It was clear this kid was not going to get better. He wasn't there. And Jim talked and said ‘You get better, your mother is really reading to you and loves you and you're a great hero,’ and she said, ‘No, not that way, really talk like you are.’ Meaning Tony Soprano. So he said, ‘Listen you mother f-----g piece of s--t, you get your f-----g act together. You don't let your mother suffer after all she gave you, you piece of s--t.’ And the mother said, ‘Oh thank you, thank you.’

“And Jim signs the Bible, or whatever she was reading, and he walks out of the room and just bursts into tears.”

But Nevins will never forget Gandolfini’s appreciation for those who serve our country.

“His heart was in these wounded guys," Nevins said. "I don't know why, but he felt like one of them.”

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