James Gandolfini, Michael Imperioli Got So Drunk on ‘Sopranos’ Set They Had to Be Chained to a Tree

Imperioli said he got accidentally "plastered" on set before filming a memorable season four scene.
"The Sopranos"
"The Sopranos"

The Sopranos” is back in a huge way thanks to pandemic streaming, the upcoming prequel film “The Many Saints of Newark,” and various show-devoted podcasts such as Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa’s popular “Talking Sopranos” series. Schirripa recently shared with Insider one of the more memorable set moments from making “The Sopranos.” During the filming of one fourth season episode, cast members James Gandolfini and Michael Imperioli had to be chained to a tree because they got too drunk before shooting. The production required the two actors to stand close to the edge of a cliff, which was made risky because they were inebriated.

“On the break, while they set up the lights, Michael and Jim [Gandolfini] drank a bottle of Wild Turkey,” Schirripa said. “They were so drunk that they had to chain their legs to a tree, because they were afraid they were going to fall off the cliff.”

The scene can be found in the fourth season episode “Whoever Did This,” which finds Tony Soprano (Gandolfini) and Christopher Moltisanti (Imperioli) heading to upstate New York to dispose of the body of Ralphie Cifaretto (Joe Pantoliano). Tony strangled Ralphie to death and recruits Christopher to help him throw the body into a quarry.

“We rehearsed on this cliff and they’re going to have this camera down in a creek on a boat looking at us, cameras on the cliff with us, and they’re going to light the state park. It’s a big production value thing,” Imperioli said earlier this year on his podcast. “We had to wait until it’s night so we had a few hours to get made up and wardrobe and relax. We go to [James Gandolfini’s] trailer…we’re sitting around and Jim opens a bottle of Wild Turkey. We thought to have a drink because it’s been a long week.”

Imperioli continued, “Finally someone knocks on the door because it’s time to shoot and the bottles empty. We stumble out of Jim’s trailer. We’re plastered. We drank a whole bottle of Wild Turkey. We’re bombed. We’re stumbling to the cliff and we have to get to the edge to throw the body. We were too drunk to notice if anyone was annoyed, but they were worried we would fall off this cliff. They took chains and wrapped them around our ankles and tied them to a tree and covered it with leaves.”

Listen to Imperioli’s full memory of the scene here, courtesy of the “Talking Sopranos” podcast.

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