Monday, July 15, 2002


Future of 'Sopranos' probably is on film

        PASADENA, Calif. — HBO's mob boss says The Sopranos will get whacked after the fall 2003 season.

        Even if HBO makes an offer too good to refuse, five HBO seasons is enough, says creator David Chase. But he's interested in keeping the mob hit alive in feature films, like Star Trek: The Next Generation and The X-Files.

        “We've talked about (movies). That could be a possibility,” Mr. Chase told members of the Television Critics Association meeting here.

        Two-time Emmy winner James Gandolfini, who stars as emotionally tortured Mafia leader Tony Soprano, says he won't continue without Mr. Chase guiding the drama. Neither will Edie Falco, the two-time Emmy winner who plays his wife, Carmela, or Lorraine Bracco, who plays his therapist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi.

        “I started with him (Mr. Chase), and I'd like to finish it with him,” Mr. Gandolfini says.

        The Sopranos returns for a fourth season Sept. 15 after a 16-month absence. HBO delayed the premiere to air Sarah Jessica Parker's Sex and the City this summer. The Sex season debut is 9 p.m. Sunday.

        At a packed press conference, Mr. Chase was very guarded abut giving away any family secrets about the new season.

        “Season one was abut Tony and his mother,” he says. “Season two to a certain extent was Tony and his sister (Aida Turturro). Season three was deliberately about Tony and Carmela as parents.

        “This year focuses on Tony and Carmela as a couple, on their marriage. Other things happen, but that's kind of the line that we keep coming back to.”

        Says Chris Albrecht, HBO president for original programming: “People will be well rewarded for the wait.”

        Getting hooked up with the mob show this fall are Montel Williams, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Roma Maffia, Peter Bogdanovich, Peter Riegert, Joyce Van Patten and Jerry Adler. Linda Lavin plays a psychiatrist in the second episode.

        The Sopranos, shot on location in New Jersey, will acknowledge the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks which killed thousands. The brief glimpse of the World Trade Center in Tony's car mirror has been removed from the series opening.

        “I've always looked at the title sequence as Tony driving home now. So it wouldn't make sense for him to see something in the past. We cut it,” Mr. Chase says.

        The World Trade Center collapse “will be addressed directly,” he says, again refusing to provide any specifics. Maybe he was afraid Tony Soprano would put a price on his head?

        “I know we were extremely affected, and felt a lot of internal changes,” he says.

        One thing hasn't changed: Fan interest in the series during the extended hiatus.

        “I have to honestly say, there's not a day that's gone by where I haven't had 10 people come up to me and say, "What the hell is going on? Where's the show?' ” Ms. Bracco says.

        Mr. Chase bristles at the notion that he should be cranking out episodes at a faster pace, as if he was still writing Northern Exposure or The Rockford Files at the broadcast networks. The Sopranos is better than typical TV because he has the time to do them right. As they say: It's not TV. It's HBO.

        “It's only because we're on HBO that we can do these things, and that we don't have this kind of rigid . . . system to work under,” he says. “It's like we have to apologize because we take the time, and spend the money, and effort to do a really good job. I don't get it.”

        The Sopranos has struck a chord in America because we like watching the powerful crime boss fumble his way through life, Mr. Gandolfini says.

        “It's like watching a car crash,” he says. “It's somebody acting on impulses that we all have, and . . . we see the consequences . . . They do see the wreckage he's causing, but in his mind, he's trying to do what makes sense to him.

        “Tony's appeal is just like Ralph Kramden's appeal,” says Mr. Gandolfini, referring to Jackie Gleason on The Honeymooners. “It's like this moron is trying to do the best he can, and he just keeps screwing up.”

        Last season's episodes had to be rewritten after the death of actress Nancy Marchand, who played Tony's devious mother. Mr. Chase had planned for Tony to need his mother to testify in his behalf in court.

        “It wouldn't draw them closer, but they'd have scenes together. So that was short-circuited by her death,” he says.

        Ironically, Tony's mother was to die in the original Sopranos script that Mr. Chase wrote as a feature film.

        “It was supposed to end with Tony finding out his mother had tried to kill him,” he says. “He was going over to the nursing home, but she was already dead from a stroke, and he would never have his chance to confront her. But then it kept on going.”

        And became a mob hit.

        TV critic John Kiesewetter is reporting from the summer press tour. e-mail:


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