Heralded by many as the greatest TV show of all time, The Sopranos was HBO’s first big hit, a genuine game-changer that paved the way for the golden age of long-form drama. Without Tony Soprano the would be no Don Draper, Walter White or Jimmy McNulty. Created by David Chase and premiering in 1999, The Sopranos transcended genre, becoming a show about family, struggle, work, crime and what it takes to survive.
The show spawned a legion of unwavering fans, and fascination with the crime drama continues to this day. Last year during lockdown HBO Max reported that The Sopranos was its most-streamed show. While much has been written about the HBO drama, the show still holds some secrets. Here are 10 things you never knew about The Sopranos.
1. Livia Sopranos final scene was CGI
Tony’s mother was played wonderfully by Nancy Marchand but unfortunately, the actress was diagnosed with cancer during the first season. She passed away before her final scene could be shot, so producers used old footage, as well as special effects to make it work. They used CGI to add her head onto a body double.
2. David Chase at the beginning and end
Despite creating and writing the show, David Chase only ever directed two episodes – the pilot and the finale. Out of all 86 episodes only one was ever directed by a woman, Lorraine Senna was in charge of season 1 episode “Down Neck.”
3. Silvio is in Bruce Springsteen’s band
While he became a household name as the slick Silvio, Tony’s second in charge, The Sopranos was actually Steven Van Zandt’s first-ever acting job. Before that, he was known as Little Stevie and was a part of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street band.
4. Adriana appears in the pilot (as a different character)
She’s the long-suffering girlfriend of Christopher Moltisanti, but it turns out we’d actually seen Adriana, played by Drea de Matteo, before…kind of. The actress appeared as an unnamed hostess in the pilot before David Chase gave her the role of Adriana.
5. Bada Bing is a real joint
More often than not you can find Tony and the boys hanging at The Bing, their favourite strip joint. Turns out this was a real place, not a set. Bada Bing scenes were shot at Satin Dolls, a “gentleman’s club” on State Route 17 in Lodi, New Jersey.
6. The Sopranos house is for sale
Back in 2019, the real house where Tony and Carmela lived went on the market. The Sopranos pilot was filmed inside and outside of the North Caldwell house, but a replica was built for later seasons. It was last listed for USD 3.4 million.
7. Lady Gaga made a cameo
A star really was born on The Sopranos, with Lady Gaga making her acting debut on the HBO show. She was just 15-years-old at the time and appeared under her real name Stefani Germanotta. She starred as one of AJ Soprano’s friends from school.
8. The Goodfellas connection
The Sopranos shares a whopping 27 cast members with Martin Scorcese’s mob masterpiece Goodfellas. This includes Lorraine Bracco, Tony Sirico, Michael Imperioli, Frank Albanese, and Vincent Pastore.
9. Real mobsters watched the show
FBI agents once told David Chase that every Monday their wiretaps would be full of real-life mafia members talking about the show. Also following the pilot, where Tony is seen wearing shorts, a prominent New Jersey mobster contacted James Gandolfini and creator, David Chase to let them know “a don does not wear shorts.”
10. Gandolfini used to put stones in his shoes
Tony Soprano had a famous temper and in order to achieve genuine rage on screen, James Gandolfini used to put small pebbles in his shoes in order to aggravate himself. Then when the time came to shoot an angry scene, he was ready to go.