But then a revelation came. "Somehow or another," he says, "I saw Tony as the father." He blinks, blows out air. "Not Tony! I saw Jim as the father. Don't make anything out of that. I don't expect to see that in print!" He laughs, finally.
Thing is, Chase does associate both Tony and the actor who played him with his own dad. "Jim will do things that my father would do," he says. "Like, in hot weather, he'll put a wet rag on his head, very Italian laborer, just sort of sit there with a bottle of beer. There were lines in 'The 'Sopranos'' that were right out of my father's mouth. My father was not a big guy like that, but he was bald, and he was pissed off all the time." There's an early 'Sopranos' scene where, after Carmela's been pressuring Tony to get a vasectomy, the two of them watch their son, A.J., drop a pan of lasagna. Tony yells, "That's my male heir and you want me to get a vasectomy?"
"That's the kind of thing my father could say," says Chase. "Mean shit like that."
"It's better than reminding him of his mother," says Gandolfini. "We come from similar backgrounds. I told him, 'Between me trying to kill your mother in 'The 'Sopranos'' and now playing your father, I don't know what to make of any of it.'"
The father in 'Not Fade Away' is the only part Chase acknowledges as straight autobiography: He runs a small store, is tormented by his joyless wife, and is horrified by his son's fruity fashion sense. "I had, you know, boots and tight jeans, that whole Sixties thing," says Chase, whose long-since-vanished hair was too curly to grow long. "He didn't want a misfit, someone dirty and poorly dressed. He didn't want that in his house."
There's a scene where Gandolfini's character gets into a physical altercation with his son, and that's true to life too. "We had one or two wrestling matches in the kitchen like that," Chase says. "But Jim's huge and scary. He's scarier than my father, I'll tell you that."
Chase's father lived to see his son's success in show business. "He was proud of it, but he still didn't get it, just didn't understand. He would have much rather, I'm sure, I'd have been a lawyer. People used to tell me that they would go into his store, and my father would start bragging about me. He was obviously very pumped up about it. But not with me."
A lot of creative people have at least one parent who encouraged them, but not Chase. "They were not telling me that I was great," he says. "In fact, just the opposite. They had such a focus on me that I felt very special. It was a negative focus – but I felt I was different from anybody else in some way. And then, also, I married my girlfriend, Denise, and she's still my wife. And she began to tell me that I had something I really should believe in. And it's a great thing to have somebody feel like that about you."