What do you do after you made that thing that pretty much defined a cultural era? This is the question we put to Sopranos creator David Chase and his collaborators James Gandolfini (who, for those of you who were in an isolation unit in Nowherestan in the ’90s and ’00s, played unhappy mob boss Tony Soprano) and Steven Van Zandt (who played his right hand mobster, Silvio Dante). Their answer was a little surprising: a nostalgic little movie about growing up in New Jersey in the 1960s when rock and roll was just taking off.
The three of them gathered together to discuss their new collaboration Not Fade Away (Gandolfini joined by phone from Los Angeles, moaning about the palm trees). Chase, who has said that the unlikeable character of Livia Soprano was an exploration of his mother, admits that Gandolfini’s Pat in this movie is quite a bit like his father. And while the movie is not autobiographical, he does acknowledge that it’s personal.
The lead character Douglas plays drums and sings in a band that doesn’t really take off, just as Chase did. And he gets up to amusing New Jersey style teenage pranks, just as Chase did. And he clashes with his traditional Italian father, who often says “You look like you just got off the boat” by way of insult, as Chase’s father often did. But the story has enough universality that Gandolfini and Van Zandt both recognize elements of their upbringing as well.
“Our generation was defined by a generation gap,” says Van Zandt, who was the music director on the film. “It’s one of the few times in history where it was that dramatic a shift between the past and the future,where the parents could not relate to their children.” Van Zandt trained the young actors to play like musicians from the era, including teaching the drummer to play wrists up.
Gandolfini, who was “pleased and shocked” to be asked to reunite with Chase had recently become a real father again. He notes that the fathers of that era were pretty different: “That generation had the war and the depression. They didn’t expect this whole thing of happiness,” he says. “I admire that generation a lot but my parents were not a bundle of joy, that’s for sure.”
At the end of the movie while it’s unclear exactly what will happen to Douglas, there is some resolution. Chase, perhaps shaken by the furious reaction to the Sopranos series finale, which found the family eating in a diner, made sure the film wasn’t too open-ended. Comparing the Sopranos finale to other highly discussed events, like the jump from the edge of space that Felix Baumgartner made, he says “I don’t think anyone’s getting the F-word directed at him because of that jump.” To which Van Zandt replied: “I did. I said Holy F***ing S***.”
Yet again, you can take the guys out New Jersey….
Read the full interview, which is available to magazine subscribers, here.