Talking with David Chase
Seventeen months have elapsed since David Chase — the 63-year-old creator of The Sopranos — slammed the door on America’s favorite Mob family with a controversial series-capping cut to black. This week, HBO reissues the show’s entire 86-episode run in a massive, 10-pound boxed DVD set. (Chase jokes that it’s so heavy, ”you could tie it to someone before you dumped them in the water.”) So what lingering satisfactions and regrets does Chase have about his acclaimed saga? Pull up a chair and tuck in for a remembrance of things pasta.
EW: Is it an ongoing relief to be done worrying about plot leaks?
DC: Yeah, it is. It was awful, that fear. And it was constant.
EW: TV-show collections are huge DVD sellers. Why do you think that is?
DC: It’s like pizza or popcorn. You’re at home, it’s all there. You can just keep eating it. So you do keep eating it. I’ve never watched television that way. In fact, I only wanted to see The Sopranos on Sunday nights at 9 o’clock [on HBO]. That’s the way I was brought up. That’s how my family watched Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners.
EW: Was that enjoyable, tuning in to your own stuff?
DC: I would be a wreck. I would think, My God, this is moving slow. Or: This is too fast. And that’s the last time I’ve seen these shows. I don’t go back and watch them.
EW: You’ve been mum about the ultimate meaning of the show’s finale. But in the DVD supplements you do admit that you were partly invoking the finale of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, where Keir Dullea’s character watches himself age. Does that onion-rings-at-the-diner scene even actually happen, or is Tony just ruminating?
DC: [Long pause.] There’s more than one way of looking at the ending. That’s all I’ll say. [Laughs]
EW: There’s a lot in the DVD set about the show’s music, which was nearly all preexisting pop tunes. Why no original score?
DC: When we first started talking budget, I said, I want $50,000 per episode for music clearances. People said, Why? What’s that got to do with the Mob? I said, Uhhh, I can’t answer that for you. It’s just gotta be there…. [But] you can’t just slap on a pop song. If I hear ”My Girl” one more time against a scene with two lovers going out to dinner, I’m gonna go out of my mind.
EW: Any song you couldn’t get rights to at any price?
DC: Yeah — the theme from The Godfather. It was for a scene of Tony’s crew sitting around watching a bootleg DVD. We wanted the audience to hear that [Nino Rota] music. [Francis Ford] Coppola signed off, but the guy who was running Paramount at the time, Jonathan Dolgen, refused.
EW: What, for you, remains the most innovative thing about The Sopranos?
DC: Here we have network television, this great, commercial medium. And in all its history, what have we never really talked about? Money. And the American obsession with desire and consumption. The first show to do that was The Sopranos. It’s about the stuff that takes the place of existential dread.
EW: You’ve said there’s no prospect any time soon, or maybe ever, of a Sopranos movie. So what’s next?
DC: I’ve got a deal to write and direct a movie script for Paramount. I’ve actually got two main areas I’m interested in, and I’m torn about which one to pursue. I’ve been Hamlet-ing this decision now for months.
EW: As that battle-ax Livia Soprano would say, ”Oh — poor you.”
DC: [Laughs] I can tell you this: I won’t be writing about gangsters.