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David Chase on James Gandolfini, Tony Soprano
News broke exactly one week ago that TV - and the movies - had lost a transcendent talent, James Gandolfini, who had died of a heart attack at age 52. His funeral is in New York tomorrow, but meanwhile, here are some outtakes from a good interview that ran in the Guardian this morning. David Chase, who created "The Sopranos" (and lives in France) is interviewed by writer Nosheen Iqbal:
How much of him was in Tony Soprano? Did he ever help shape the writing of his character?
He didn't shape the storyline and he didn't shape the writing, but he taught me a hugely important lesson about the character on the first day of shooting. It was written in the script that Christopher was supposed to tell him that he had written a screenplay and he was sending it to his cousin in Hollywood. And it said in the screenplay that I had written: "Tony, I'm going to send this to my cousin in Hollywood.'" And Tony says, "What's the matter with you?" and slaps him across the face. When we staged the scene, Michael Imperioli – who plays Christopher – was drinking a beer and what Jim did was lift him out of his chair by his collar and slam him against a wall. Instead of slapping him lightly across the face, saying "are you out of your ------ mind?" – it was the same dialogue, but he delivered it with eight times the intensity. What I remember most is the beer bottle, rolling across the concrete, and thought to myself: "Yep. That's great. Yep, that's right. Let's really go for this. This guy is the part."
How would you describe your working relationship overall in those years?
We were soulmates. We were close in the beginning and the more it became a huge battleship, a corporation and a huge undertaking, the less time we actually saw each other, the less time we spent together discussing creative things. I was doing a lot of the writing and post-production and not on set the whole time. But we were always close, we were always talking, or communicating on some level. If we didn't speak directly, there were middle men who would communicate between us. But it was a huge undertaking.
I mean, I think the life of the lead in a TV drama is the toughest thing. He would be working all day, 14-hour days, and then go home to Manhattan, see the pages for the next day's work that he'd be starting at eight o'clock in the morning, and then he had to memorise it all somehow between nine o'clock at night and eight o'clock in the morning. There wasn't a lot of time for small talk. He didn't come to the office very often but I would visit him in his trailer. Sometimes it was about a crisis, sometimes it was acrimonious. Most times it was kind of brotherly.
What was he like to go out with?
A lot of fun. He was a huge lot of fun. I don't want to do historical revisionism or do this with rose-tinted vision because that wasn't him and that isn't me. Depending on the day, depending on the party and depending on his mood, it was unpredictable, but mostly he was out for a good time. But you know people have different agendas, and one person's good time isn't always someone else's.
What made him so complex?
He was extremely tortured. I'm not his psychiatrist and it's not for me to talk about his background or upbringing. It's not my place to analyse Jimmy Gandolfini. But I did say we were brothers and what I meant by that was that we had things in common, like negative tendencies. He was a very angry guy and so was I. It always seemed bizarre to me that we met under these circumstances and created this even angrier guy. We used to laugh about that a lot. We laughed a lot at rage. He would laugh at his own rage. He was delighted when he saw me rage, it was the funniest thing in the world to him. If he had thought about it, how do you think he would have liked to have been remembered? I think, as kind of an average guy.
He told me that. He said as much.
But why would someone who wanted to be remembered as an average guy become an actor? Do you know what he wanted to next?
We talked about directing, he wanted to produce. And God bless him, he was smart. He would have done.