7 Surprises From The Sopranos 20th Anniversary Celebration
BY OLIVIA ARMSTRONG
The DiMeo crime family reunited for a look back on what it meant to be on the ground floor of a television revolution — and shared a few lesser-known anecdotes.
“Jesus… 20 years,” Sopranos creator David Chase marveled as he addressed the opening night crowd at New York’s annual Split Screens Festival. “I saw myself in the paper the other day and thought, ‘Christ, it’s been this long?’” Chase, alongside collaborators Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire), Ilene Landress (Girls) and Matthew Weiner (Mad Men), were joined by the cast for a look back at the series and its cultural impact. Here are seven things gleaned from the candid conversation, moderated by festival founder and TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz.
Steven Van Zandt was nearly cast as Tony.
The musician and actor — aka Tony’s second-in-command, Silvio Dante — originally auditioned for the part of the mafia patriarch and almost got it. “Stevie came in to read and did a great job,” David Chase recalled. “I thought, ‘Maybe this could be a live-action version of The Simpsons.” Van Zandt waved it off with a laugh: “When I heard that, I thought, ‘What the f*ck is this guy thinking?’”
Lorraine Bracco used to hide her scripts in Dr. Melfi’s chair.
Bracco, who played Tony’s trusted psychiatrist was so in awe of Gandolfini's monologues during the show’s various therapy sessions, she was nervous she would forget her lines. “I used to stuff my script pages between the seat cushions,” she admitted. Executive producer Ilene Landress backed up Bracco: “When the show ended, we found all these scripts in Lorraine’s chair. But come to find out, Jim [Gandolfini] was hiding lines in his seat, too.”
Chase was inspired by “Don’t Stop Believin’” early on.
The creator, notorious for his minimal use of music, wanted to incorporate Journey’s ballad back in Season 4, two seasons before the show wrapped with that unforgettable final scene. Writer/producer Matthew Weiner described Chase’s reaction: “He comes into work one day and said, ‘Hey, I just heard “Don’t Stop Believin’” on the radio… That’s a great f*ckin’ song.” Chase still thinks so. “I just wanted to find the right time to use it,” he said.
Jamie-Lynn Sigler had no idea what she was in for.
The actor, known familiarly as Tony and Carmela’s daughter Meadow, received a surprise when she arrived on set for the first time. “I was 16 and thought, based on the show’s title, that it was about opera,” she remembered with a laugh. “And then I was really confused by the stand-ins: I thought I lost the part.”
Before someone got whacked, they were fed.
Michael Imperioli, aka Tony’s cousin Christopher Moltisanti, shared how the ensemble mourned the death of a character. “We had a tradition that if someone got whacked, we’d take them out to dinner in Little Italy,” he said. “But as the show went on, it became obvious to the restaurant that whenever we showed up, someone on the show was gonna die.”
Fake scenes were shot to dodge spoilers.
As the series progressed, executive producers Terence Winter and Ilene Landress described how the show spoiler-guarded in an age before social media. “Christopher’s death nearly made it into the [National] Enquirer,” Winter said. Landress confessed: “We found a script on the subway once.” To combat any potential leaks, the writers and Chase used to devise fake scenes to confuse the set — particularly “day-player” actors and crew members, who aren’t a part of the regular production. “In the episode where Uncle Junior shoots Tony, we inexplicably had Frank Vincent [‘Phil Leotardo’] in a window shooting at Tony instead,” Winter went on. “Everyone was so confused — especially Frank.”
James Gandolfini and Edie Falco were meant to be a TV couple.
“Jim never felt like he knew what he was doing,” Falco reflected, “Which was good because I didn’t either.” The actor remembers her late colleague and onscreen husband fondly and credits their no-nonsense, all-business working relationship to the success of Tony’s and Carmela’s visceral emotion toward one another: “We would get the lines, we would look at each other and we’d do the scene.”