David Chase Q&A


Shelley: First of all, I’ve got to talk to you about ducks.
Chase: “You got it.”

Shelley: Where did the ducks come from ?
Chase: Well, when I was writing the pilot, I was visiting a friend’s house, to do some work on a movie based on the Rockford Files, and she had a little ramp in her pool for some ducks. And for some reason, I just thought, this has got to be in the show ! So this thing occurred to me that Tony would get involved with the ducks, and that when the ducks flew away, it would have meaning for him.”

Shelley: To me, they symbolised just how original The Sopranos is. Like the way, in the pilot for the series when Dr. Melfi asks Tony if he feels depressed and he says, “since the ducks left, yeah.”
(Chase laughs)
Chase: The thing with the ducks turned out pretty well. Those ducks did not want to fly away. We didn’t realise that ducks, they need a long runway. We thought they would just be able to spring into the air and fly away. We had to take the ducks and sort of make them airborne. (Laughs) We had a duck wrangler.”

Shelley: Then they pop up in the second series, on Tony’s boat.
Chase: “yeah we’ve got a thing about ducks now.”

Shelley: How did you cope with the expectation for the second series ?
Chase: “It was very difficult, it really was. Because, to begin with, the show was really only designed to have that story with Tony, his mother and his uncle, play out. It wasn’t designed to go beyond that. We’d written ourselves into some corners (his mother in hospital, his uncle in jail). The expectations were so high, with everyone saying, its this, its that, it’s a masterpiece etc. It was very distracting.”

Shelley: Is it true that that when you had all those Emmy nominations, you all turned up at the ceremony in a bus ?
Chase: “Yeah, it said New Jersey Transit Authority on. Everyone else goes in these limousines. And The Sopranos came jumped the queue on the bus.”

Shelley: Did you ever imagine the series would turn out as well as it did ?
Chase: “Oh no, not at all. We thought at best we had maybe a cult following, if we had any following whatsoever. Never thought this would happen.”

Shelley: At the beginning when you first started filming it, when nobody really knew what you were doing, did you get any complications from the mob ?
Chase: “No, never. Because we were below the radar. We never had any problems. After the first season aired, this FBI eavesdropping device picked up these mobsters in New Jersey talking who believed the show had been patented on their particular family – which it’s not. They would talk about the show every Monday morning.”

Shelley: Did they want a percentage ?
Chase (laughs) “No, no.”

Shelley: The mob must love it.
Chase: “I think they do. By and large, from what we understand from people who know people, they do like the show. I didn’t think they would. I thought that real wiseguys wouldn’t like the fact that he and his mother didn’t get along. And I don’t think they do like that part of it. And also the psychiatry part.”

Shelley: In the second series, there’s a very funny bit when Tony’s new psychiatrist turns him down because he says he knows who Tony is and he’s seen Analyse This and Tony says, “Come on, that’s a fucken comedy’
Chase: “I’ve never seen the movie. I didn’t see it because I just didn’t wanna repeat anything. I’m very impressionable. We came out before they did. But we went on from there.”

Shelley: Off the top of your head, what was your favourite episode from the first season ?
Chase: “I guess I’d have to say College (number 5). I think that’s my favourite. It was the simplest. I don’t know, it was just really good. I also liked the Tindersticks’ episode.”

Shelley: We know Tony’s REALLY depressed cos he’s listening to Tindersticks.
Chase: (laughs) “That’s their thing right ?”

Shelley: If I had a TV series, I would love doing those little things – the music, the titles…
Chase: “That’s my favourite part of it all.”

Shelley: One of my favourite details is the Scorsese line.
Chase: “Haha – um, I love Kundun, I really do. I thought that movie was great. And I figured that Christopher would be such a Scorsese fan that he would love it too.”

Shelley: Did you any get any reaction back from him ?
Chase: “No, we don’t even know if he’s ever seen the show.”

Shelley: Who’s your favourite not-main character ?
Chase: “That’s a tough one. I love all those characters. I love Adriana, though she’s become more like a main character than not-main character now, I liked her so much. There’s a guy in the new series, Vito Spadafor, a fat guy who plays these card games. He was also the guy that Chris Montesanti told to get out of the bakery before he shot the kid in the foot. I love that guy.”

Shelley: Where did you get the name Pussy from ?
Chase: “It was apparently somewhat well-known in police and neighbourhood circles in Newark, New Jersey that there were two gangsters in New Jersey named Big Pussy and Little Pussy – in the 40s or the 50s, so I took that.”

Shelley: What about Paulie Walnuts ?
Chase: “That’s just a made-up name. I just liked the sound of it” (laughs)

Shelley: “I love the way they use whatever’s handy to beat up people with – a bell from a hotel reception desk, a telephone, and in the second series, a coffee pot. Where do you get that from ?”
Chase: “Yeah, that was great. It is realistic, yeah. (Resigned) I have no real contact with organised crime if that’s what you’re asking me.”

Shelley: “You seem to know to enough to do The Rockford Files and The Sopranos.”
Chase: “I wrote a total of 22 or 25 Rockford scripts – I’ve just always been interested in the mob and criminals and stuff like that and steeped myself in that and I read the newspapers a lot.”

Shelley: It’s realistic the way they turn up – very sinisterly – at
the football coach’s house and tell him they found his dog. That’s when you know you’re in trouble. When gangsters find your dog and it wasn’t even missing.
Chase: “Haha. Right. They never hurt the dog. They were just saying ‘this is what coulda happened.”

Shelley: An average series would never have that – they would just take it. The Sopranos is not that obvious. It’s very clever.
Chase: “I think wiseguys are pretty clever. They are not obvious. They do very little threatening nowadays. They don’t have to threaten. They just have to go in, and as long as you understand who they are, all they have to say is ‘you know, we’d really like it if…’ Or ‘wouldn’t it be nice if…’ It sounds better on the FBI tapes. Threatening people is against the law. FINDING dogs isn’t.”

Shelley: Is the mob in decline in the States as people say ?
Chase: “I talked to a cop in New Jersey who said to me that the mob probably loves to hear that. They’re glad to hear people think that – because it isn’t true.”

Shelley: What about being as involved in drugs as they used to be ?
Chase: “No. they’re not. From what we understand, if you’re selling drugs in mob territory, they may charge you a fee. I also hear that they used to do some of the bank-rolling and the money laundering. I think they still are involved in the money laundering but not the day-to-day distribution.”

Shelley: “Is protection-rackets their main thing ?”
Chase: “With the American mob, their main thing is betting, gambling. America’s a country of 250 million people and a lot of them like to gamble. Vegas and Atlantic City and the lotteries don’t satisfy that. Some people need to gamble all the time. So not only does the Mafia make a profit from taking all that action, once people lose a lot or get behind, then the mob can do loan-sharking, loan them money at exorbitant rates, and then eventually get into legitimate business. In other words, Jim, if you were a degenerate gambler and you couldn’t pay, they would think of some way to let you off the hook, by saying to you, ‘Start ordering office equipment at Arena and make sure a couple of pieces go out the back door every week. That’s how it all works.”

Shelley: “Has it changed your life ? In everyday situations, do you get treated differently because of The Sopranos ?”
Chase: “Um… frankly, not enough.”

Shelley: You must get a better table at expensive Italian restaurants.
Chase: “That HAS happened. We actually have got some decent tables because of it.”

Shelley: So what’s going to happen to The Sopranos ?
Chase: “We’re starting the third series, and a fourth and then we’re out.”

Shelley: The Sopranos should go on at least as long as The Waltons did.
Chase: “Yeah, we’re the anti-Waltons.”

Shelley: “Do you know how it’s all going to end ? What will happen to Tony ?
Chase: “I’m not sure yet. Even if I knew I wouldn’t say.”

Shelley: I remember when Belker got shot in Hill Street Blues. If you did something like that to Tony, it would be historic cos he’s such a big character in people’s hearts.
Chase: “Yes he is. People in Britain have responded very strongly. People in France have responded very strongly. Germany ??? So-so. Italy ? Apparently it’s not particularly well-liked. I think it’s not funny to them.”

Shelley: People love really love Tony don’t they ?
Chase: “They do.”

Shelley: Well, maybe they don’t, but I do.
Chase: “Well I’m glad to hear that.”