Sopranos’ Steven Van Zandt almost played Tony but 6 savage words put stop to it
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Steven Van Zandt has revealed how he almost played Tony in The Sopranos – but six savage words put a stop to it.
The musician, now 70, and show creator David Chase went to TV network HBO where they were told: “Are you out of your minds?”
Steven had been asked by Chase to play the role of the iconic New Jersey mob boss – despite having never acted before.
And even Stevie, a member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, was taken aback by the “ballsy move” and politely declined.
But the director was not impressed.
“He said: ‘what do you mean, no’. And I said I’m not an actor. I’d love to do it but I’m not an actor.”
To which Chase told him: “You are an actor, you just don’t know it yet.”
Those words were enough to convince Stevie who was then cast as main character Tony, but things didn't go to plan.
Stevie recalled the encounter with co-stars Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa on the Talking Sopranos podcast.
He said: “David cast me as Tony and we go to HBO and HBO says to him ‘are you out of your minds, this guy has never acted and this is the biggest expense we’ve ever done'.
"So they wouldn’t let him cast me."
It was a blessing in disguise, however, as James Gandolfini would go on to play Tony and scoop numerous awards for his incredible and iconic acting.
Steven, meanwhile, was offered the chance to have another role, but he didn't "feel good about taking somebody’s job", so he presented Chase with the character of Silvio Dante, Tony's consigliere, right-hand man, and owner of the strip club Bada Bing.
He also found out where gangster John Gotti, boss of the Gambino crime family, got his clothes made to complete Silvio's look, along with a very iconic wig.
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Steven, whose wife Maureen also played his on-screen wife, said: "It was good timing as Gotti had just gone to jail so his tailor was available. I ended up getting him hired for The Sopranos.”
The show changed TV history and paved the way for other giants such as The Wire, Mad Men and Breaking Bad.
As a result of the coronavirus lockdown, the show has now acquired a whole new legion of fans discovering its magic for the very first time.
See what happened to the male cast here.
- The Sopranos
- James Gandolfini
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