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thedrifter
09-12-07, 08:17 AM
"Sopranos' tough guy moved to tears at soldiers" pain
Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 09/12/07

BY GARY STRAUSS
USA TODAY

Just days before HBO film crews were to descend on Walter Reed Army Medical Center to record the plight of the Iraq war's wounded soldiers, the Pentagon nixed the plan — fearful of publicity about to surface over lax outpatient care.

HBO's longtime documentary chief, Sheila Nevins, had lined up "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini and 24/7 access on the heels of 2005's Emmy-winning "Baghdad ER." A dozen filmmakers were stationed throughout the hospital.

Nevins and Gandolfini were forced to Plan B. The result: "Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq," which premiered Sunday, is a stark, intimate look at the physical and emotional toll for many of the military's more than 25,000 war wounded.

"Alive Day" — the phrase is an homage to the date the wounded survive death — was set on an off-Broadway theater stage, where Gandolfini interviewed 10 Army soldiers and Marines with injuries ranging from brain damage to triple amputations. Filmed by "Baghdad ER" co-directors Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill, "Alive Day" is interspersed with home videos, pre-injury tapes in Iraq and harrowing insurgent tapes of roadside bombings.

Army Sgt. Bryan Anderson, who lost most of two legs and his left hand to an explosion in October 2005, is seen earlier as a spunky high school gymnast. Now, Anderson tells Gandolfini, he's grateful he can still use a fork.

Gandolfini, whose Tony Soprano was TV's quintessential tough guy, says he was more disturbed by the emotional toll on the wounded than by their catastrophic injuries. At times, he was moved to tears.

"All of them in their own way get to you," says Gandolfini, who conducted the interviews while wrapping the "Sopranos" finale. "But I was proud at how dignified, strong and smart they came across."

The press-shy actor has repeatedly deflected the media spotlight from himself to war veterans, such as Marine Cpl. Jacob Schick, who has had 46 operations. "I'm trying very hard not to make this political or about me. It's about what they need and what they're going through," Gandolfini says.

Gandolfini hoped his fame would attract viewers as well as help the wounded in "Alive Day" open up. "These guys watch "The Sopranos.' They feel that they know you. That helped talking to them," he says.

Retired Capt. Dawn Halfaker, a former high school and West Point basketball star whose right arm and shoulder were amputated after a rocket-propelled-grenade attack in June 2004, momentarily breaks down in the documentary as she tells Gandolfini her fears over potential motherhood and whether she'll be able to pick up her child — which she hadn't expressed in previous media interviews.

"I was able to reflect and open up about realities I don't want to face," says Halfaker.

Ellie

Did anyone see the show..?

The eye ball sweat kept creeping in to blur my vision...

lucien2
09-12-07, 09:38 AM
It was great...but brutal on me and my wife. We have not discussed it since we saw it, no need to.

thedrifter
09-12-07, 09:49 AM
James Gandolfini is a stand up guy...

The CWO of The Wounded Warrior Baracks(CampLejeune) and 20 of the Warriors were personally invited to the taping of the show in Fl...

They flew down in a priviate jet supplied by Gandolfini and he treated them after the taping to food and refreshments(beer) at a local bar....

The CWO is a personal friend of Mark and I.

:thumbup:

Ellie