-…floating around called The Sopranos, and I thought it was about singers.

(Foto: Annie Leibovitz, Vanity Fair)

Igjen leverer mitt favoritt-lesested LongForm. Denne gangen er det Sam Kashner som samler historier fra begynnelsen av tv-serien The Sopranos. Fra audition og første filmdag, til den sisteepisoden.

Her er noen godbiter folkens (seriøst, dette er bare litt av artikkelen. Les hele. That’s an order.):

Following its debut, on January 10, 1999, The Sopranos became America’s magnificent obsession. The reviews were so ecstatic that they became the subject of a Saturday Night Live spoof (“The Sopranos is so good, if I had to choose between watching The Sopranos and breathing, I’d pause … think about it … then watch another episode”). The cast and crew were showered with praise. Journeyman New York actors such as Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, and Tony Sirico were suddenly rock stars. Their public appearances at hotels and casinos drew thousands of fans.

JAMES GANDOLFINI: I read it. I liked it. I thought it was good. But I thought that they would hire some good-looking guy, not George Clooney but some Italian George Clooney, and that would be that. But they called me and they said can I meet David for breakfast at nine A.M. At the time I was younger and I stayed out late a lot, and I was like, Oh, for fuck’s sake. This guy wants to eat breakfast? This guy’s going to be a pain in the ass. So we met and we spent most of the time laughing about our mothers and our families.

STEVEN VAN ZANDT: So David goes, “Sorry—any other part you want, you can have it.” I said, “You know what, now that I think about it, I feel kind of bad taking another actor’s part here. I’m a guitar player. These guys, they go to school, they go Off Broadway, they work for 5, 10 years honing their craft and being waiters and whatever.” He says, “All right. I tell you what: I’ll write you in a part so you’re not taking anybody’s job.” I said, “Well, I have a couple of treatments I’ve written, one about an independent hit man that had retired, Silvio Dante.”

EDIE FALCO (Carmela Soprano): After we shot the pilot, David said, “Well, that was a lot of fun. Unfortunately, no one will ever watch this show, but you guys have been great.” And that was the end. Or so we thought.

MATTHEW WEINER: The first time I typed “Tony” on my computer, I thought, Holy shit! I can’t believe there’s a chance they’re actually going to say this.

TONY SIRICO: I got the script that I had to kill a woman, and I ran to David. I said, “David, don’t make me kill a woman.” He said, “No, you’ve got to kill her.” I said, “Then let me shoot her.” He said, “No, it’s got to be personal.” I said, “David, I come from a tough neighborhood. If I go home and they see that I killed a woman, it’s going to make me look bad.” He smiled and said, “No, you’ve got to do it.” Here’s the thing. We did the scene; I had to smother her. First he wanted me to strangle her; I said, “No, I’m not putting my hands on her.” He said, “Use the pillow.” After it was all said and done, I went back to the neighborhood, and nobody said a word. They loved the show; they didn’t care what we did.

STEVEN VAN ZANDT: Two weeks into the show, I’m walking down the street, and three out of four people stop me, talking about Sopranos. Twenty-five years as a rock ’n’ roll star? Forget it. I’m like, Wow, this TV thing. Yeah, every cliché you ever heard about TV, I just witnessed it.

TERENCE WINTER (writer, executive producer): One F.B.I. agent told us early on that on Monday morning they would get to the F.B.I. office and all the agents would talk about The Sopranos. Then they would listen to the wiretaps from that weekend, and it was all Mob guys talking about The Sopranos, having the same conversation about the show, but always from the flip side. We would hear back that real wiseguys used to think that we had somebody on the inside. They couldn’t believe how accurate the show was.

STEVEN SCHIRRIPA (Bobby “Bacala” Baccalieri): After Season Four [when Gandolfini and HBO had a pay dispute and filming was delayed], Jim called all the regulars into his trailer and gave us $33,333 each, every single one of us. Now, there were a lot of big actors—Kelsey Grammer, Ray Romano—and they’re all nice guys, I’m sure, but nobody gave their cast members that kind of money. That’s like buying everybody an S.U.V. He said, “Thanks for sticking by me.”

STEVEN VAN ZANDT (Silvio Dante): Drea was a good friend and you’re not going to see her anymore, which I haven’t since. Shooting somebody’s easy. Putting your hands on somebody and pulling her out of that car? She looks like a tough broad in the show, but up close she’s a girl, O.K., and now you have to like manhandle her. And she’s a terrific actor, so she’s like, “Do it for real. Don’t take it easy on me.” So for—whatever—six hours, you have to beat this girl up, drag her out of the car, throw her on the ground. That was really difficult. I felt so exhausted at the end of that day. I said to Drea, “You better win the damn Emmy after all this, you know, make it worth it.” And she did.

on the last episode
DAVID CHASE (series creator): Ambiguity was very important to me. And the kind of movies that I was attracted to after a certain age were complicated, ambiguous movies—8 1/2, Fanny and Alexander, Raging Bull. No certainties. And network television at that time was nothing but a world of certainties. The Sopranos was ambiguous to the point where, to this day, I’m not really sure whether it was a drama or a comedy. It can be both, but people like to reduce it to one or the other. I know there are the two masks, Comedy and Drama, hanging together. But that’s not the way American audiences seem to break things down.

JAMES GANDOLFINI (Tony Soprano): When I first saw the ending, I said, “What the fuck?” I mean, after all I went through, all this death, and then it’s over like that? But after I had a day to sleep, I just sat there and said, “That’s perfect.”

STEVEN VAN ZANDT (Silvio Dante): I had to go on one of those nationally syndicated shows the next morning, so I heard from the whole country how upset they were. So I just started asking people, O.K., what’s your ending? Does the family get wiped out? Is that what you want? You want the kid to get killed? Tony to get killed? The wife? O.K., so what? And nobody could really say. I said, “I’ll tell you exactly what happened. The director said cut, the actors went home. That’s what happened.” It’s a TV show. It’s a fucking TV show, O.K.?

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