How much of him was in Tony Soprano? Did he ever help shape the writing of his character?
He didn’t shape the storyline and he didn’t shape the writing, but he taught me a hugely important lesson about the character on the first day of shooting. It was written in the script that Christopher was supposed to tell him that he had written a screenplay and he was sending it to his cousin in Hollywood. And it said in the screenplay that I had written: “Tony, I’m going to send this to my cousin in Hollywood.’” And Tony says, “What’s the matter with you?” and slaps him across the face. When we staged the scene, Michael Imperioli – who plays Christopher – was drinking a beer and what Jim did was lift him out of his chair by his collar and slam him against a wall. Instead of slapping him lightly across the face, saying “are you out of your fucking mind?” – it was the same dialogue, but he delivered it with eight times the intensity. What I remember most is the beer bottle, rolling across the concrete, and thought to myself: “Yep. That’s great. Yep, that’s right. Let’s really go for this. This guy is the part.”