Friday, October 19, 2007

David Chase Takes on Angry Sopranos Fans

Were you at all surprised by the reaction to the final episode?
DAVID CHASE: No. We knew there would be people who would be perplexed by it and shut their minds to it. This just felt like the right ending.

Did you expect people to be so pissed off?
We didn't expect them to be that pissed for that long. It's one thing to be deeply involved with a television show. It's another to be so involved that all you do is sit on a couch and watch it. It seemed that those people were just looking for an excuse to be pissed off. There was a war going on that week and attempted terror attacks in London. But these people were talking about onion rings.

If you were expecting plot twists like Furio coming back from Italy to whack Tony and marry Carmela, you were obviously barking up the wrong tree.

There was so much more to say than could have been conveyed by an image of Tony facedown in a bowl of onion rings with a bullet in his head. Or, on the other side, taking over the New York mob. The way I see it is that Tony Soprano had been people's alter ego. They had gleefully watched him rob, kill, pillage, lie, and cheat. They had cheered him on. And then, all of a sudden, they wanted to see him punished for all that. They wanted ''justice.'' They wanted to see his brains splattered on the wall. I thought that was disgusting, frankly. But these people have always wanted blood. Maybe they would have been happy if Tony had killed twelve other people. Or twenty-five people. Or, who knows, if he had blown up Penn Station. The pathetic thing — to me — was how much they wanted his blood, after cheering him on for eight years.

You know there were many people who thought the end was brilliant.
Sure. But I must say that even people who liked it misinterpreted it, to a certain extent. This wasn't really about ''leaving the door open.'' There was nothing definite about what happened, but there was a clean trend on view — a definite sense of what Tony and Carmela's future looks like. Whether it happened that night or some other night doesn't really matter.

Have you heard the elaborate theories about what really happened? Like the one that says you were re-creating The Last Supper?
The interesting thing is that, if you're creative, there may be things at work that you're not even aware of: things you learned in school, patterns you've internalized. I had no intention of using The Last Supper, but who knows if, subconsciously, it just came out. If people want to sit there figuring this stuff out, I think that's just great. Most of them, most of us, should have done this kind of thing in high school English class and didn't.

Are they wasting their time? Is there a puzzle to be solved?
There are no esoteric clues in there. No Da Vinci Code. Everything that pertains to that episode was in that episode. And it was in the episode before that and the one before that and seasons before this one and so on. There had been indications of what the end is like. Remember when Jerry Toricano was killed? Silvio was not aware that the gun had been fired until after Jerry was on his way down to the floor. That's the way things happen: It's already going on by the time you even notice it.

Are you saying...?
I'm not saying anything. And I'm not trying to be coy. It's just that I think that to explain it would diminish it.

Why do you think people are so intent on getting an answer?
I remember I would tell my kid and her cousins bedtime stories. Sometimes I would want to get back to the grown-ups and have a drink, so I would say something like, ''And they were driving down the road and that's it. Story over.'' They would always scream, ''Wait a minute! That's no ending!'' Apparently that need for finality exists in human beings. But we're not children anymore. Especially watching a show like The Sopranos that's got sex and violence.

You've said that you knew what the final scene would be for several years before it happened. What was the seed of the idea?
As I recall, it was just that Tony and his family would be in a diner having dinner and a guy would come in. Pretty much what you saw.

So you just had to get them to the diner?
Yeah. But it's not that difficult. Whatever else happens, people are going to have to stop and eat.

Was Journey there from the beginning?
I had thought about using ''Don't Stop Believin''' a couple times over the course of the series in a background way, but I had forgotten about it until my nephew sent me a mix tape with the song on it. I knew it would be controversial, because Journey has a reputation that most people wouldn't associate with our show.

Did you consider other songs?
When we were scouting locations, I actually took several songs in the van and played them for the crew. I'd never done that before. When the Journey song came on, everybody went, ''Oh no! Jesus, David, what are you thinking?'' But then they started to say, ''You know what? This is kind of good. This is a great f---ing song!''

What about the black screen?
Originally, I didn't want any credits at all. I just wanted the black screen to go the length of the credits — all the way to the HBO whoosh sound. But the Director's Guild wouldn't give us a waiver.

Did you think of it as a prank — people thinking their TVs had gone out?
I saw some items in the press that said, ''This was a huge 'f--- you' to the audience.'' That we were s---ting in the audience's face. Why would we want to do that? Why would we entertain people for eight years only to give them the finger? We don't have contempt for the audience. In fact, I think The Sopranos is the only show that actually gave the audience credit for having some intelligence and attention span. We always operated as though people don't need to be spoon-fed every single thing — that their instincts and feelings and humanity will tell them what's going on.

It seems part of what upsets people is your ruthlessness. The idea that nothing ever changes or gets better.
I disagree. People have said that the Soprano family's whole life goes in the toilet in the last episode. That the parents' whole twisted lifestyle is visited on the children. And that's true — to a certain extent. But look at it: A.J.'s not going to become a citizen-soldier or join the Peace Corps to try to help the world; he'll probably be a low-level movie producer. But he's not going to be a killer like his father, is he? Meadow may not become a pediatrician or even a lawyer, but she's not going to be a housewife-whore like her mother. She'll learn to operate in the world in a way that Carmela never did. It's not ideal. It's not what the parents dreamed of. But it's better than it was. Tiny, little bits of progress — that's how it works.

Do you believe life has an arc? Or is it just a bunch of stuff that happens?
Is there a pupose, you mean? Everything I have to say about that is in the show. Go look at Albert Camus' Myth of Sisyphu. It's all there: Life seems to have no purpose but we have to go on behaving as thought it does. We have to go on behaving toward each other like people who would love.

So, it's still worth trying?
Of course. What else are you going to do? Watch TV?

(Interview by Brett Martin. Excerpted from The Sopranos: The Complete Book)

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