In This Issue: David Chase’s Rock & Roll Fantasies

Mj 618_348_in this issue david chases rock roll fantasies
Photograph by Mark Seliger

In the new issue of Men’s Journal, writer Brian Hiatt, takes a close look at David Chase, the man who created ‘The Sopranos,’ and kicked off the golden age of television. After achieving incredible success in the television world, Chase is finally about to find out if his work translates to the big screen, with his first feature film ‘Not Fade Away,’ a very personal, at times autobiographical, story of a middle-class Italian-American clan in 1960s New Jersey and the ill-fated rock & roll band formed by that family’s rebellious son. This story explores the way Chase’s work, from Tony on the ‘Sopranos,’ to the drum-playing lead actor in ‘Not Fade Away,’ mirrors his own life: playing drums in a band, finding an artistic direction in filmmaking, and rising above a difficult family life in New Jersey. Here’s an excerpt, and an example of some of that personal-professional overlap, from “David Chase’s Rock & Roll Fantasy”:

Chase does associate both Tony [Soprano] and the actor who played him [James Gandolfni] 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 [James] 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.”

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