By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Not the ones you like, anyway.
Not the ones you like. Not the ones they‘re paying $8 million a season. Whereas movies do surprise you sometimes. Even in a very mainstream movie the hero could theoretically go down to some kind of noble death, go down shooting.
Do you watch TV yourself?
No. I mean, I watch MSNBC, CNN, I watch the History Channel. The last TV series I watched regularly was The Larry Sanders Show. I don’t think much about television at all. It doesn‘t play any kind of a part in my life, except that I do this show.
So the models for The Sopranos are from film rather than from TV?
Yeah. I wanted to open it up. My feeling is that, really for reasons of economics -- maybe historical, because of radio -- TV is in a way a prisoner of the word. Dialogue is affordable: You can have a courtroom scene, hire a bunch of extras and three principals and have them talk talk talk talk talk. Where’s the mystery and the poetry in that? Listen, there‘s a lot of talk on our show -- people talk their asses off -- but I like to think that it’s more than just elevated banter, conversation, and that it‘s more open-ended.
In a movie there’s something else that happens -- in a good movie, even ones that aren‘t so good -- because of the size of it, or because the images are so overpowering, or the music is so strong, something happens besides what people are saying. In television it’s only what people are saying that gets through. The image is pretty small and the sound‘s not that great. Nobody really concentrates very much on sweeping you away, by your senses. I wanted to do a show in which the senses were engaged, the visual sense and the audio sense.
Larry Sanders was a model in the sense that I wanted to be on HBO. First of all, I wanted to have a deal at Brillstein-Grey because Larry Sanders was a Brillstein-Grey show. And that’s not a creative model, but I guess it‘s the beginnings of one -- you’re saying to yourself, ”Creatively, I think that‘s where I’d be best off.“ But the only model I really had from television was, to a certain slight extent, Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks was a show I really admired.
Because it had transcended dialogue.
You came of age in the ‘60s. What kind of mark did that leave on you?
Pretty indelible, I would say. I hate to be a cultural imperialist, but I think in terms of music I got to hear the best when it was happening. When I was listening to the radio I was hearing the Stones and Hendrix and the Beatles, and sometimes I think about that, sometimes I think that I was really lucky that I lived at that time. A lot of it was getting high and listening through the headphones. In some way that I can’t even explain I think I learned a lot from it, I learned a lot about creating from all that listening on headphones.
Did you subscribe to the hippie ideal of a possible world of peace and harmony?
I don‘t think I subscribed to that. But I thought there was room for improvement, and that there would be some improvement. I can remember lecturing my parents and a bunch of my aunts and uncles that drugs were going to change the world -- and I was right [laughs] -- that drugs were going to change American society. They just looked at me like, ”What is he talking about?“ But I thought that LSD was fundamentally going to change consciousness.
Did it change yours?
I think it did. I think I saw that this is maybe just one plane we’re living on, that maybe there‘s something else out there. And I must stress maybe. I’m not sure and I don‘t know, but it had some pretty profound effects.
Did you have a religious upbringing?
I did. Even though I’m Italian, both my parents are Protestant. So I was sent to a Protestant Sunday school and there was always a battle about trying to get me to attend church, but that never really took. It‘s funny, because my mother’s Protestant, yet most of her sisters are Catholic. My grandfather being a socialist, he didn‘t bring his kids up in any way. There was no obeisance to the Catholic Church, so they were free to do what they wanted. My mother and a couple of her sisters happened to wander into this Italian Protestant church for youth group kinds of things. And there she met my father. My father’s family were Baptists from Naples -- don‘t ask me how that happened.
Do you have the sense that the mob family in The Sopranos is close to what you might find in the real world, or is it a kind of fairy-tale mob family?
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