The Sopranos creator David Chase opens up about how star James Gandolfini used to refer to him on set of the acclaimed HBO series as Satan. Premiering in 1999, the crime drama centered on New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano as he struggles balancing his family life with his role as the leader of a criminal organization, as well as the lives of his family members, mafia colleagues and rivals. Alongside Gandolfini, the primary cast for the series included Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Lorraine Bracco, Dominic Chianese, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Robert Iler and Jamie-Lynn Sigler.
Since its premiere, The Sopranos scored rave reviews from critics and audiences alike and has since been celebrated as one of the greatest TV shows of all time. Across its six-season run, the series garnered 21 Primetime Emmy Award wins and five Golden Globe nominations and expanded into other mediums including a video game, books, soundtrack albums and podcasts. The latest chapter in the franchise will be the prequel film The Many Saints of Newark exploring the teenage years of Tony Soprano in the 1960s and ’70s during and in the wake of the Newark Riots, with Michael Gandolfini taking over the role from his late father.
In anticipation of the release of The Many Saints of Newark in a few months, Chase spoke with Vanity Fair. In reflecting on the production of The Sopranos, the creator recalls the late Gandolfini bringing his son to the set of the series, though even with Michael present, the Emmy winner wasn’t always the nicest to Chase. See what he had to say below:
“Yeah, he was. … As a little kid. And his father used to greet me, ‘Hello, Satan,’ as we passed.”
Despite bringing him multiple Emmy and Golden Globe statues, it’s no secret that Gandolfini’s time on the set of The Sopranos was not always the brightest for him. Whether disappearing from production without any word or tension between the star and the writers room over real-life details of him and his co-stars making their way into scripts for their characters, Gandolfini was known to have issues with the creative crew of the series. Pair these issues with Gandolfini’s personal struggles with drug and alcohol abuse and self-directed rage, it may not come as much of a surprise the late star would refer to the creator himself as Satan on set.
That being said, Gandolfini was also well-known for his generosity for much of his cast and crew on The Sopranos, even relinquishing some of his own earnings for the regular cast ahead of production on season 5 to end a salary dispute between them and HBO. Additionally, given Chase and Gandolfini would later reunite for the former’s 2012 directorial debut Not Fade Away shortly before the latter’s passing, Gandolfini’s satanic nickname for the series creator certainly feels more of a playful joke than a malicious jab. Audiences will have to wait and see if the young Michael Gandolfini can live up to the legacy of his father in his first partnership with Chase for The Many Saints of Newark when it hits theaters and HBO Max on October 1.