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When fans of The Sopranos watch the crew head to Italy in season 2, there’s a rush of new locations and unfamiliar characters. And immediately upon arriving at their Naples hotel in “Commendatori” — with Andrea Bocelli soaring on the soundtrack — Paulie Walnuts (Tony Sirico) and Christopher (Michael Imperioli) start expressing admiration for the local color.

“You know what I noticed on the plane?” Christopher tells Paulie and Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini). “Even the skanks are worth f*cking.” Once inside the hotel, Tony and his seconds meet Italian point-man Furio Giunta, played by Federico Castelluccio.

Later that night, while dining with the local boss, Tony notes Furio’s ability to manage things on his superiors’ behalf. And after dinner, he notices how Furio handles a potential threat to his boss’s safety.

So when Tony negotiates a deal with Naples, he includes Furio as one of his terms. That introduces a major character for the next few seasons. According to Sopranos writer-producer Terence Winter, Castelluccio showed he’d be perfect as Furio right from his audition.

Federico Castelluccio showed he could handle every side of Furio at his audition

Sopranos cast
Federico Castelluccio, Vincent Pastore and James Gandolfini | KMazur/WireImage

During his July 27 visit to the Talking Sopranos podcast, Winter recalled the auditions for the Furio character. The character demanded an actor who spoke Italian, could handle himself, and would later serve as the love interest of Carmela Soprano (Edie Falco).

It didn’t go well in the beginning. “We went through so many guys,” Winter said on Talking Sopranos. “And everybody sounded like Mr. Bacciagalupe from Abbott & Costello. It was horrible.” Then Castelluccio walked in the door. He was just what Winter had in mind for Furio.

“I said this to Federico and it’s the God’s honest truth: He is exactly what I thought about when I wrote that character,” Winter said. However, Winter wasn’t ready to declare victory until he watched Furio in combat.

“I worked on The Great Defender and we had an actor who had to throw a punch in a scene,” Winter said. “We didn’t think to ask the guy to let us see him throw a punch. On the day [of the fight scene], it was clear he never threw a punch before.” So Winter had Castelluccio throw a punch.

Terence Winter loved Castelluccio’s fighting skills

Federico Castelluccio and John Ventimiglia
Federico Castelluccio and John Ventimiglia attend a Gotham Magazine anniversary party in New York. | Sylvain Gaboury/FilmMagic

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Though Winter had seen the worst in actors’ fighting skills, Castelluccio didn’t disappoint. “He mimed the violence, and it was like ‘Holy shit,'” Winter recalled saying to himself. “‘This guy is the guy.'”

TV shows don’t shoot in sequence, so Winter was referring to a alter episode (“Big Girls Don’t Cry”) in which Furio tears through a New Jersey brothel. The production shot that scene prior to heading over to Italy for “Commendatori.” In brief, Castelluccio locked down Furio before the Italian interlude.

It wasn’t that simple for Castelluccio, however. Winter recalled complications the night of the brothel shoot. Since they were filming on a Jersey location, they had to finish after 4 a.m. one night. And Castelluccio had to hit every mark on his extended-shot rampage in one take. He did it, though.

“This was one of the first days Federico ever worked,” Winter recalled. “And we asked him to do an incredibly sophisticated stunt sequence.” (It starts with Tony in the car.) “What you see on TV is one take — the only take. […] It was all on Federico.”