David Chase Talks About Post-Sopranos HBO

The Sopranos’ David Chase is returning to a different HBO than he helped transform.

David Chase is coming back to HBO. The creator of The Sopranos is writing the mini-series A Ribbon Of Dreams for the premium network. Chase has worked in television for more than 40 years. He made his bones writing for such shows as The Rockford Files and Northern Exposure before he created the Emmy winning gangster series that changed the landscape of television and taught people that HBO was not TV. It was something else.

“I’m doing a project for them, A Ribbon Of Dreams, but I haven’t worked with them for a long time and what I’ve heard is they don’t rely quite as much on the creator or the artist doing what comes naturally to him or her,” Chase told Deadline. “I remember when we did The Sopranos I had three arguments with Chris Albrecht over six seasons, 10 years. Yeah, I had three maybe four arguments with him and that’s nothing. Now from what I understand there’s a lot more back-and-forth.”

A Ribbon Of Dreams almost reunited Chase with more of the creative force behind The Sopranos.

“There was talk of (director) Tim van Patten working on it and then he sort of seemed to just disappear,” Chase said.

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HBO is in the process of becoming something else entirely, according to an interview Chase gave to Deadline. The golden age of TV that started with The Sopranos, is losing some of its gilded edge. The network recently replaced the showrunner for the Martin Scorsese/Mick Jagger music industry drama Vinyl due to faltering ratings.

“We’re talking Terence Winter, one of the best screenwriters I know and I can’t conceive how it could have gotten to this point,” Chase told Deadline. “He’s just so good and I’m not there and I really don’t know the ins and outs of it, but it just seems to me like maybe there was just a lot of cooks in that pot.”Chase’s new project will run six hours long and span the period from 1915 to today.

“It was reported as kind of a history of Hollywood which it really is not, or at least that’s not what it morphed into,” Chase explained about his series. “I decided that we didn’t really need a fictitious history of Hollywood because there’s so many real documentaries that you could never capture the scope in a scripted piece. But it’s really about three people who go through their lives in Hollywood and Hollywood isn’t the backdrop, it’s actually the environment and it doesn’t cover everything about Hollywood that ever happened.”

Chase doesn’t watch much TV, but when he does, it’s usually made by some of his most interesting acquaintances.

“I watch my friends’ stuff, Terry (Terence Winter) and Matt (Weiner),” he told Deadline. “I watch a lot of CNN. News — to cheer me up. I don’t watch a lot of series television at all. I’ve watched some of it, but I’m not really a devoted watcher. I’m not a binger.”

“You know, I liked Matt’s (Mad Men) a lot and I thought that the last three episodes of Boardwalk just kind of flowered and it was really cool when they had the young Nucky. That was just great. I still remember a shot of these boys diving for quarters under the ocean. And I did see the Breaking Bad one, but I didn’t see enough Breaking Bad to really be able to comment.”

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Chase also threw a little water on the rumors that there might be more to The Sopranos story to come, but he left a little wiggling room.

“I’ve had people talk to me about that,” Chase told Deadline. “I’ve had conversations with some movie studios that want to do it as a film. So far I’ve rejected the idea but I certainly wouldn’t do it as a television show. I’m always disinclined to say, ‘No I’ll never do it.’ But I think I’ll never do it. I’m disinclined to say that because I don’t want my thinking to be constrained. I’ve said it from the beginning: If I had a really good idea and I thought it could be really entertaining and it wouldn’t upset what was done I might do it. But so far…”

Years after the closing shot of The Sopranos, people are still discussing it, taking it apart for clues, something that still surprises Chase.

“I expected it to cause… I mean, it’s hard to go back to those days but the show was like, I don’t know, sometimes I can’t believe it ever happened — the show was like a moonshot, a dreadnought,” Chase said. “It was incredible and everything about it was analyzed and talked about. Anybody who wrote articles about it, any subject, it was, ‘Oh Tony Soprano would say…,’ or ‘This was a Sopranoesque moment in life.’ So I knew there would be some conversation about it, but I never knew it would be like that.”

There were rumors that Chase shot three different endings for the iconic show, cementing its legendary status.

“No. there was another fake ending that we shot where, I forget what it was,” Chase clarified. “Tony goes back to the Ba Da Bing and has an argument with Silvio or something. Well, it couldn’t have been Silvio because he was in the in the hospital. Well, anyway, it was a fake ending that we shot just to throw people off. This was when we had people trying to invade and get our scripts. … There was an alternative but it kind of had the same feel, just didn’t happen in a restaurant.”

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Deadline asked Chase to share a moving anecdote about the late James Gandolfini, who inhabited the character Tony Soprano.

“Poignant? He wasn’t a very poignant kind of guy,” Chase laughed. “We did (get up to mischief) in the beginning. We used to get drunk a lot. We both liked to drink and as the show went on we did less and less of that and kind of retired to our respective corners — he being the actor, me being the writer and we always felt close to each other. But it’s strange you’re asking about it because now that I’m thinking about it, I think we evolved without ever talking about it. It was a way to work together such that he never got into my business and I never got into his. I said very little about his performance, he said very little about the material.”

“At his funeral I said we were like brothers and that’s sort of true,” Chase continued. “Brothers don’t necessarily always agree or get along but there was some deep connection there. What I was really happy about was that after the show was over he sort of didn’t feel like hanging out and that went on for a while and I didn’t care. That was fine. But then I did this movie Not Fade Away, and I asked him to be in it and he said yes immediately. He told his agents: ‘David gets whatever he asks for’ and that was great. We had a really good time working on it and a lot of the old tensions went away because we weren’t trying to run this aircraft carrier just the two of us.”