'Sopranos' Creator David Chase Opens Up, Sort Of, About Its Finale

"I can't really say where the idea [came from], it's just an idea," he says

the sopranos finale James Gandolfini David Chase
HBO
Tony Sirico, Steve Van Zandt, James Gandolfini, Michael Imperioli, and Vincent Pastore in 'The Sopranos.'
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Sopranos creator David Chase fielded questions about the show – and offered some ambiguous answers to questions about its ambiguous finale – this week at the Museum of Moving Image in Queens, New York, IndieWire reports. Following screenings of both the series' pilot and finale (the only two episodes that Chase both wrote and directed), the producer revealed that the first episode could have been its own feature film if HBO didn't pick up the series. As for the finale, which ends (spoiler!) by cutting to black, obscuring the fates of the characters, Chase said, "I can't really say where the idea [came from], it's just an idea."

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Though the series moderator, museum curator David Schwartz, mentioned early on during the postscreening conversation that "I mean, of course Tony gets murdered at the end," Chase neither confirmed nor denied this reading of the infamously abrupt ending. As soon as the Q&A was opened up to audience questions, however, the first question — "So what happened?!?" — forced the showrunner to formulate an answer. "I wanted to create a suspenseful sequence," he said. "I didn't want people to be reading into it like The Da Vinci Code. It wasn't meant to confound anybody. It was meant to make you feel – not to make you think, but to make you feel."

After a brief pause, Chase then said that he'd come across a quote from author Carlos Castaneda that came the closest to summing up everything that had been going through his head as he wrote the final sequence: "Warriors don't venture into the unknown out of greed…to venture into that terifying loneliness of the unknown, one must have something greater than greed: love." He then mentioned another quote from the finale that he felt was equally appropriate to the ending: Paulie Walnuts' declaration that "even in the midst of death, we are in life. Or is that vice versa? Either way, you're halfway up the ass."

Chase also mentioned that, even following the death of the show's star, James Gandolfini, he has not totally ruled out the possibility of a Sopranos movie. "A lot of people have talked to me about it," he said. "If I had a really great way to do it, I would do maybe like a prequel."

Looking back at the series as a whole, Chase said that networks initially told him that the show's concept was "well-written, but too dark." "I remember going to a network where a very important man nowadays said, 'You know, I got no problem with the shooting and the killing and the robbing and all that, but does he have to be on Prozac?'" Chase told the audience. "'Does he have to be seeing a shrink? Are you married to that shrink?' And I said 'Well, yeah.'"

Another revelation from the evening included Chase's claim that actress Nancy Marchand, who played Tony Soprano's mother Olivia, reminded him of his own mother. "We probably read 100, 150 women and they all did this crazy Italian mama thing, one stereotype or another," he said. "And [Marchand] came up the stairs to the casting office, she could hardly breathe 'cause she was ill then. And I thought, 'This lady, oh I know, she was in The Naked Gun.' And she just did it. And you know, this was based on my mother. It was so close. Honest to God, it was spooky. And when my cousins saw it, they said, 'David, my God, who's that lady? That's Aunt Marma!' And I said, 'I know.'"

He also said that the hardest character to kill off on the series was Mikey Palmice, the consigliere to Corrado Soprano played by Al Sapienza, who didn't make it past the first season. "He really did plead for his [character's] life," Chase said of the actor. "More than once. 'Isn't there some way?' I said, 'Al, we can't. That's not the way it goes.' And then we had the read-through, and so people were sitting down for the read-through and all the actors were getting ready, and he walks in. And Tony Sirico [the show's Paulie 'Walnuts' Gualtieri] is sitting there at the table and he goes: Badda-badda-badda! Like a machine gun. He was trying not to cry."

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