Actor Alec Baldwin reveals that he asked the creators of The Sopranos to play the part of Tony Soprano’s killer. The iconic drama premiered on HBO in 1999 and ran for six seasons. Following the titular New Jersey family, it specifically delved into the ruthless workings of the patriarch, Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), an Italian-American mobster. Throughout the series, Tony carefully sought to establish a critical equilibrium between his role as a cold-blooded crime lord and a suburban father. His wife, Carmela (Edie Falco), suspected him of having mafia connections but struggled to make sense of how to confront him. The Sopranos quickly became a classic, receiving effusive praise from critics for its taut and savvy narrative, despite its notoriously vague ending.
In 2007, The Sopranos famously concluded on an ambiguous note that elicited a mixed response from the audience. During its run, Tony notably avoided death at multiple turns. At the same time, Tony continued to collect an alarming death count, dispatching rivals with a calculated eye. As the finale approached, many viewers speculated that the antihero would finally meet his end and thereby face some sort of retribution for his misdeeds. Instead, the last scene depicted the Sopranos family eating at a diner, speaking in mid-conversation, when the screen cut to black. Its ambivalent ending spurred a number of theories, including the popular assumption that Tony had been killed in the middle of his dinner and the abrupt fade to black represented his unexpected death. To this day, the explicit meaning of the finale remains up for debate.
While speaking to Michael Imperioli (Christopher Moltisanti) and Steve Schirripa (Bobby Baccalieri) on the Talking Sopranos podcast, Baldwin shared that he had petitioned to play the role of Tony’s murderer. Speaking frankly, he described how he reached out to the creators of the show:
“I called up whoever it was, I forget, and I said tell them, when it’s time to kill Jimmy [Gandolfini]…tell them — this was early, before you get to the end — there’s only one man in this business who should come in, whack Jimmy, and ride off with Edie [Falco], and I am that man. I am the guy who needs to blow Jimmy away and take Edie, who I’m madly in love with, away. And they were like, ‘Sure, great, we’ll add your name to the list of all the Irish actors who think that they should be on ‘The Sopranos’.”
In the end, however, the showrunners of The Sopranos ultimately chose to keep Tony’s fate a mystery. While some critics have applauded the writers for a seemingly daring narrative feat, others have shared their frustrations at what they perceive to be a half-finished and unsatisfying conclusion to a hefty magnum opus. Despite these varied responses, The Sopranos endures as a series that significantly transformed the television landscape. Many creators, including Vince Gilligan of Breaking Bad and Matthew Weiner of Mad Men, have cited The Sopranos as an influential touchstone that deeply shaped their own projects.
Regardless of whether or not Tony Soprano was killed, his status as a flawed and complex protagonist notably changed the world of televisual narrative. Gandolfini played his character with a nuanced and grounding hand, which allowed the audience to connect with a man who was far from a hero. As The Sopranos demonstrated, real life is a moving target that cannot be easily defined or organized. Although Baldwin clearly hoped to make a mark on the show himself, perhaps it is for the best that no one knows, exactly, how Tony reached his end.