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‘The Sopranos’ Almost Had a ‘Moonstruck’ Problem with ‘Phony Italians,’ Says HBO Executive

"We always knew it would be more money," former HBO executive Chris Albrecht said. "But we wanted to make sure that we weren’t full of shit."

James Gandolfini in "The Sopranos," Cher in "Moonstsruck"

James Gandolfini in “The Sopranos,” Cher in “Moonstsruck”

HBO/MGM

Operatic epic “The Sopranos” almost received a name change for sounding a little too much like a sitcom about singers — and potentially being too much like “Moonstruck.”

New book “It’s Not TV: The Spectacular Rise, Revolution, and Future of HBO,” by Felix Gillette and John Koblin, revealed that initially “HBO executives didn’t like the name since it sounded like a show about opera,” and the pilot for Emmy-winning “The Sopranos” scored poorly with the core demographics.

Former HBO executive Chris Albrecht noted that the biggest emphasis for the long-running mafia series was authenticity, including being filmed on location in New Jersey.

“That was my big beef about ‘Moonstruck’: phony Italians, phony New York,” Albrecht said. “We always knew it would be more money. But we wanted to make sure that we weren’t full of shit. And making those kinds of commitments would tell people that we were for real.”

Beloved 1987 romantic comedy “Moonstruck,” starring Cher and Nicholas Cage, was filmed mostly in Toronto.

Series creator David Chase added, “Everybody else had said, well, you’re not going to shoot it in New Jersey, are you? What you mean is that you’re going to do what ‘NYPD Blue’ does. You’ll shoot it in California and every month go back to New York and shoot a couple exteriors. Because, why shoot in New Jersey? I would always say, kind of stupidly, or maybe naively, ‘No, no, no, I want to shoot it in New Jersey.’ To them, it just meant they’d have to spend more money.”

“The Sopranos” cost more than $2 million per episode, making the series TV’s most expensive show at the time. The series starred James Gandolfini and Edie Falco as the first family of the Italian Jersey crime syndicate. “The Sopranos” ran from 1999 to 2007 and garnered 21 Emmy Awards. Prequel film “The Many Saints of Newark,” written by Chase, debuted in 2021.

“The Sopranos” alum Michael Imperioli confirmed he and former co-star Steve Schirripa are reuniting with showrunner Chase for an upcoming film, co-written by Imperioli. While the plot remains under wraps, fans have speculated that the movie will be part of the expanding “Sopranos” cinematic universe under Chase’s five-year WarnerMedia deal.

Emmy winner Chase previously told The Hollywood Reporter that he is open to doing “one more movie” involving “The Sopranos” legacy and has an “idea for that that I’d like to do. But I don’t think they want that.”

According to Chase, HBO executives were looking for him to create “another series of ‘Sopranos’ from the time the movie ends until the time the series begins.” The potential series would bridge the gap between the events of “Many Saints,” set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, to when “The Sopranos” began in 1998. Chase noted that the only way he would be open to the idea would be if Terence Winter co-wrote the script with him.

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