David Chase: I was annoyed that fans wanted Tony Soprano dead

Series showrunner tells podcast that ambiguous ending rankled with viewers who wanted to see the character ‘face-down in linguini’

David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, has spoken about his irritation at viewers’ desire to see Tony Soprano die at the end of the hit series.

Speaking on the Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter podcast, the 76-year-old said he had been “bothered” by people’s obsession with the blackout ending of the 2007 finale, which stopped short of confirming the fate of its lead character.

Asked whether he found the scrutiny of the scene annoying, Chase said: “I had no idea [there would be] that much of an uproar. And was it annoying? What was annoying was how many people wanted to see Tony killed. That bothered me.”

Chase, who directed the final episode and was the series’ showrunner, underscored his discomfort with viewers insistence on seeing the fate of James Gandolfini’s troubled mob boss confirmed in black and white: “They wanted to know that Tony was killed. They wanted to see him go face-down in linguini, you know?

“I just thought: “God, you watched this guy for seven years and I know he’s a criminal. But don’t tell me you don’t love him in some way, don’t tell me you’re not on his side in some way. And now you want to see him killed … You’re a criminal after watching this shit for seven years.”

Chase was typically equivocal when asked whether Soprano had indeed died at the end of the series.

The sixth season ended with a mystery figure approaching Soprano during a family dinner at a diner, to the strains of Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’, followed by a black pre-credits screen.

In a 2019 interview with Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz for the book The Soprano Sessions, Chase referred to the final shot of the series as “the death scene”.

Asked on the podcast whether that had been “a slip of the tongue”, he said: “Was it?” before adding: “No,” but stressing that he had been discussing his initial ideas for the finale, rather than the episode that made it to screen.

As in previous interviews, Chase intimated that Soprano was dead, but neither confirmed nor denied the character’s fate. Speaking about the location for the final scene, he said: “I was driving on Ocean Park Boulevard [in Los Angeles] near the airport and I saw a little restaurant. It was kind of like a shack that served breakfast. And for some reason I thought: ‘Tony should get it in a place like that.’ Why? I don’t know. That was, like, two years before.”

Chase also said that Chris Albrecht, the former chairman of HBO, which commissioned The Sopranos, had been gravely concerned for the future of the show after Soprano killed another character for the first time. “[He was screaming:] ‘How could you do this?! You’ve created one of the most dynamic characters of the past 20 years and you’re just going to ruin him. You’re going to kill him right now because he kills that guy!’ And I said: ‘Well, then don’t air it.’ And he went nuts.

“I wasn’t trying to be a smartass. [I said:] ‘Chris, he’s a captain of a crew and he comes upon a guy who was a rat. If he doesn’t kill that guy, the show’s over.’” And he said: “OK, OK, OK.” But he made me make some small little side thing, that the rat was also selling drugs to kids in high school.”

Chase’s interview followed the release in September of the big-screen Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark. It featured Michael Gandolfini playing a younger version of the character made famous by his father, who died in 2013.

• This article was amended on 3 November 2021 to remove a reference to the London bombings, which occurred in 2005, not 2007.


Hannah J Davies

The GuardianTramp

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