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Mob Rules 

David Chase on The Sopranos, the small screen, and rock & roll

Wednesday, Mar 14 2001
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Page 3 of 7

Was there any art in your house?

No. My grandfather had a love of opera, my mother’s father, which my mother preserved. She used to go to the Met with her girlfriends. And there was a show on TV called The Progresso Hour, it was a kind of an opera show in the early ‘50s -- my cousins and I used to have to watch that. But that was it. There was no art.

How did you discover that there was a world of art?

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I guess in school, I guess through literature. I do know that as a kid the greatest thing for me was to be taken to New York City. Even Rockefeller Center -- I was talking to my wife about this last night, we were walking up Fifth Avenue -- it has those murals of America on the go and Indians and World War I vets, that kind of 1920s, 1930s Deco. There’s a big statue of Atlas there. I think just being in New York, somehow or other by osmosis I figured out there was something else going on.

And when did you start to feel you wanted to be a part of it?

In high school I had the idea I might want to be a writer, but first I became interested in music. I‘d always loved rock & roll and I wanted to play the drums, and my mother was against that. I had this older cousin, my cousin Johnny, and he would tell my mother, ”Aunt Norma, he can really keep time, you ought to let him play the drums.“ And she said, ”Over my dead body. Gene Krupa was a drug addict. I don’t want any of that stuff.“ But I persisted and I actually took the lessons -- I had a pad and drumsticks, and I played on that for a long time. [My family] saw that I was actually interested in it and would stick with it. And so I got a used set of Gretsch drums when I was around 15. Music was really my doorway into the arts.

Did you play in a band?

[My friends] had the most happening band in the town, but there wasn‘t room for me. They already had another drummer who was far better than me. I tried to play jazz with another group of guys, and that didn’t really work out. But later, when I was in college, that [first] band, which had been a Ventures guitar-based band, broke up, and the Beatles and the Stones had happened, and I reconfigured with two of those guys in a band with vocals -- imitation fake Beatles stuff. Although we never played one date. It was all garage.

When did you get interested in filmmaking?

I‘d loved movies since I was little. My friends and I would watch a movie and then act it out like kids always do. I always always always always loved movies. Then in my 20s I was exposed to foreign film, which gave me a different viewpoint. I don’t think I‘d thought about movies that much -- where they came from or who made them -- but watching foreign films, it became evident that they didn’t come out of a factory in Detroit like Chevrolets. I don‘t think I even read credits when I was a kid. But then I started to hear these names like Polanski and Fellini. I’d go look at those things and see that there was personal expression. It wasn‘t even the personal expression so much that got to me, as the sense of mystery that foreign films had -- nothing was ever decided, nothing was black and white, it was ambiguous.

And that felt like a truer reflection of your own world?

It really did. And that’s what I wanted to do. So I went to film school. But the screenplays that I wrote never got produced. There was nothing ambiguous about that.

What were they about?

I did all kinds of stuff -- psychological thrillers, comedies, a couple of things that were sort of music industry--based, light comedic spy movies, love stories. I tried everything.

You got involved in TV pretty quickly.

I got involved in TV pretty quickly, and once I began making money in television and also working in television -- you know, there‘s a great satisfaction in going to work and solving problems and being close to the center of it. I worked at Universal for years, and I used to love to be able to just take a walk through the back lot there where all those great movies were made and see Spartacus Square and all that stuff -- it was very inspiring to me. And so once having done that, I never stopped.

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