How Tony’s Casting Set The Tone For The Rest Of The Sopranos

Chase almost cast the role of Tony Soprano in a way that would have driven the show in the opposite direction. The series creator initially toyed with the idea of casting the musician Steven Van Zandt, who had never acted before, in that part. (Van Zandt ended up playing Tony’s consiglieri,¬†Silvio Dante.) Chase first saw him on the back of Bruce Springsteen records, “looking like an Italian punk,” he said in an interview with¬†Deadline. “He reminded me of Al Pacino at that time. That’s what attracted me to him.”

The “Sopranos” creator caught a glimpse of Van Zandt’s charm when Van Zandt inducted The Rascals into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. “[Van Zandt] was just very funny and adept at comedy,” Chase explained. Were he cast as Tony, Van Zandt’s talents would have made “The Sopranos” into “a different show. It would be more of a comedy,” Chase told Deadline. “You watch Jim Gandolfini in the role and obviously it was the same words, the same funny dialogue, but it was also brutal.”

Meanwhile, Gandolfini never expected that he would get the role of Tony. “I thought that they would hire some good-looking guy, not George Clooney, but some Italian George Clooney, and that would be that,” the actor once said. Shockingly, Van Zandt was the one who made sure Gandolfini’s casting happened. On his way into the room to read for HBO, Van Zandt saw Gandolfini sitting in the waiting room. As the guitarist explained to Deadline, “I remember saying to the casting director Sheila Jaffe, ‘That guy outside. I just saw him in a movie called ‘True Romance’ and I think he would be a terrific Tony Soprano.'” Jaffe, however, wasn’t so sure.

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