There isn't a "Sopranos" fan alive who wouldn't kill to know how the series actually ended. With a cut to black that caused half the show's viewers to assume they'd experienced a power outage, the final episode gave us what is arguably the most notoriously ambiguous ending of any television program in history. Last night at the Museum of the Moving Image, however, where the screening of "The Sopranos" pilot was immediately followed with the screening of its finale, creator David Chase delved into the unknown details of the show and its production and, unsurprisingly, had to answer to a number of questions and theories from the audience regarding his peculiar choice for a series capper -- which led to even more ambiguity. Read some of the highlights of the event below:
Networks initially called it "too dark." One problem Chase had with "The Sopranos" was getting it off the ground. The showrunner stated about the networks he pitched the idea to that "they always say that 'Oh, it was well-written, but too dark' is what they say. They said, and I remember going to a network where a very important man nowadays said 'You know, I got no problem with the shooting and the killing and the robbing and all that, but does he have to be on Prozac? Does he have to be seeing a shrink? Are you married to that shrink?' And I said 'Well...yeah...'"
The deliberate similarities between the pilot and the finale. One thing that was alluded to in the discussion was the pilot's themes and plot points being reflected in the finale (e.g. explosions, depression, the American dream), to which Chase responded that "in a way, I think the pilot is the series. The series is the recapitulation of the pilot, a longer version of the pilot." He added, "I noticed that too, that everything [Tony] said in the pilot kind of happened in the last episode. But I probably went back and read the pilot. Yeah, in fact I did. I went back and read the pilot."
Ensuring a directing stint. David Chase had only directed two episodes throughout the whole series -- the pilot and the finale -- and even that started with a bit of a struggle. Having to fight for the right to direct the pilot, Chase asserted "I had done some directing, but HBO didn't want me to direct. And I went over there actually, you know -- they asked me questions like 'What's your vision?' They always do that. 'What's you vision for this thing?' I had a very clear vision and [media executive] Chris Albrecht, ballsy guy, said 'Okay.' 'Cause I was very specific about it."
Filming outside of L.A. was a totally foreign concept. "It's funny, we went to all the networks with it and they would always say 'It says it takes place in New Jersey, you're gonna shoot it in L.A., right?' -- that's where people used to shoot. Hollywood. 'And you're gonna shoot it here in L.A., right?' and I'd say 'No, I want to shoot in New Jersey' and they'd say 'Oh, you mean you want to shoot the pilot in New Jersey and then you'll bring it back here and shoot it in Pasadena.' I said 'No, no, no, I want to shoot it New Jersey.' And I talked to Dick Wolf about it and he said 'What do you want to shoot in New Jersey for? If you want to shoot it in Manhattan, that's one thing, but New Jersey? Might as well shoot it in Los Angeles.' And I would go to somebody else and they'd say 'Where do you want to shoot it?' and I'd say 'In New Jersey.' And they'd say 'Oh I get it, you're going to do like NYPD Blue, you'll shoot it in L.A. but you'll go back every month for a couple of days of exteriors.' And I said 'No, no.' And they would look at me like I was really stupid.
The pilot was meant to become a feature film. When approached with the theory that he would write a pilot that was good enough to get made but not to become a whole series in order to be able to turn it into a feature film, Chase admitted "Yeah, that was my strategy. I thought number one, because most series don't work. I thought if I could get to direct this thing, they'll never make it as a series. So then maybe I can get another half a million out of them and finish it off as a feature."