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This story first appeared in the July 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
We were involved with HBO here in New York, and we were also good friends with [Sopranos actor] Tony Sirico — literally from the first day of the war, he was right there with us. HBO had done the Letters Home documentary, and then they did Baghdad ER. The third in the trilogy was supposed to be going to the hospital and speaking to the wounded. We got a call from Sheila Nevins, the documentary film producer: Jim wanted to do this. We had access to warriors, and they had no access to the hospitals. That was when Jim did Alive Day Memories. What I found most honorable about Jim was watching how he interacted with the wounded. I’ve seen him walk the wards of the hospital, go from door to door: “Hi, Jim Gandolfini, just popping in to see how you’re doing. You OK? You getting everything you need?” It was as simple as that. And Jim always followed up on them. When Tony and Jim went down to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas — that’s where the Army’s burn ward is, and it’s an extremely difficult experience — they spent an entire morning there. This wasn’t part of a documentary or anything; this was just Jim and Tony wanting to visit. Their stock shot way up with me on that one. I remember we were in a room, [the soldier] was combat wounded and pretty banged up. They got the word that a big admiral, a four-star admiral, was coming in to give him his Purple Heart. Jimmy borrowed a camera from the public affairs officer. So this admiral walks in the room, and here’s James Gandolfini taking pictures of him! I got calls from warriors all around the country asking about Jim’s family and wanting to know when the services are.
Read more tributes to Gandolfini below:
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