Film and TV

James Gandolfini's film debut, with his voice dubbed by... me?

Yesterday, I learned something so jaw-droppingly odd that I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. Turns out there's only one degree of separation between me and James Gandolfini, of The Sopranos fame.

How? Because I dubbed his voice in the scene on view here -- an excerpt from his heretofore unknown film debut, a late '80s cult flick called Shock! Shock! Shock!

Here's the very strange story.

Shock! Shock! Shock! was made by Arn McConnell and Todd Rutt, good friends of mine from my hometown of Grand Junction who relocated to New York City. They shot the film, released by Rhino Home Video in 1988, on 8 millimeter and added the sound later -- and as a lark, they asked me to record the voice of an orderly who gets knocked out by the star of the show, Brad Schwartz. (Brad, who became a pal of mine, too, was credited as Brad Isaac.)

Cut to yesterday, when McConnell put the following note on his Facebook page:

I watched [Shock! Shock! Shock!] for the first time in 12 years last night at the request of a friend who hadn't seen it. Saw "Jim Gandolfini" in the credits as the orderly and recalled that actor was a friend of our lead actor. Looked at the scene again and thought, "Could be." Contacted Todd Rutt today, who contacted Brad Isaac, our lead actor, who said yes, he and the future Tony Soprano had met in a theatre class, had been good friends for a number of years and acted like it was no big deal.

Maybe not to Brad, who's been active in the St. Louis theater community for years. But I can't help being amazed and amused, particularly in light of my astonishingly stiff line readings (even the "oof!" sounds phony) in the sequence above.

Obviously, my ineptitude did nothing to hamper Gandolfini's subsequent career. Even so, I still feel a responsibility to say, "I'm sorry." And "thank you."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts