James Gandolfini said that he was often contacted by real-life "wise guys", complimenting him on the authenticity of the series, as well as giving him advice.
After the pilot aired, a real-life "wise guy" told James Gandolfini never to wear shorts again. The encounter seems to have been incorporated into season four, episode one, "For All Debts Public and Private", when New York City mob boss Carmine tells Tony that he'd heard about his recent backyard party, and that "a don doesn't wear shorts."
Four members of northern New Jersey's only real-life mob family, the DeCavalcantes, were secretly taped in 1999 by federal investigators talking about their similarity to the fictional DiMeo/Soprano crime family. On the tape, one mobster asks another, "Is this supposed to be us?" And his capo buddy replies, "You are in there. They mentioned your name in there."
To settle salary disputes after season four, James Gandolfini gave each cast member $33,333 from his own pocket.
Corrado Soprano's nickname, "Junior", was taken from the actual nickname used by Tony Sirico when he was a gangster as a young man, before he became an actor.
It is said that during some scenes, James Gandolfini inserted a small stone in his shoe to anger him, making him play the role of Tony Soprano more authentically. He would also stay awake all night for some of the breakfast scenes, to achieve a tired look.
Series creator David Chase had one rule for the scenes at Dr. Melfi's office: no camera movements.
Series creator David Chase was a longtime fan of Steven Van Zandt's music, and had always wanted to write a role for him. When Chase saw Van Zandt induct The Rascals into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he invited him to audition for Tony Soprano, even though he had never acted before. Van Zandt did not want to take a role away from a real actor, so Chase wrote the role of Silvio Dante for him. The Rascals' performance footage ended up being featured in season one, episode seven, "Down Neck".
Before series creator David Chase chose "Woke Up This Morning" by the U.K. band Alabama 3 (from their 1997 debut album "Exile on Coldharbour Lane"), he wanted to open every episode with a different song. HBO executives convinced him that viewers needed to be able to identify the show with a theme song. However, every episode ends with a different song.
David Chase had planned a major storyline for the third season concerning Tony's efforts to prevent Livia from testifying against him in court. However, Nancy Marchand's death caused Chase to revise a large portion of the season.
As of 2007, the show's staff had accumulated six Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, a record. Every season but the second received Emmys for the writing.
Tony Sirico only agreed to sign on for the show if it was guaranteed that his character Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri would not be a "rat" (an informant). As Sirico explained in James Toback's documentary The Big Bang (1989), he had served time in prison for robbery. Altogether, Sirico's rap sheet included at least twenty-eight arrests. Reportedly, he appeared briefly in an uncredited role in The Godfather: Part II (1974). Some aspects of Sirico's real-life, a brief stint in the military, et cetera, were added to Paulie's life as well.
Lorraine Bracco was originally asked to play the role of Carmela Soprano, but she felt that the part was too similar to her character in Goodfellas (1990). She decided the role of Dr. Melfi would be more challenging.
During seasons two and three, Steve Schirripa had to wear a fat suit in order to play Bobby Bacala.
There was no improvisation on-set. The scripts were followed verbatim, and any possible change was discussed with David Chase first.
HBO was worried that the title of the series would make the audience think it was about music. That is why the gun image is in the title logo. The network also considered other titles for the show, such as "Made in New Jersey".
Michael Rispoli originally auditioned for the role of Tony. Series creator David Chase liked Rispoli's audition so much that he adjusted the role of Jackie Aprile, Sr., originally a much older character, to fit Rispoli's age.
The first cable-television series to win the Emmy award for Outstanding Drama Series.
David Chase once admitted that though it worked dramatically, he considered the storyline of Tony and Carmela's separation not believable, because mobsters and their wives usually don't get divorced.
The opening credits of the first three seasons are notable for one significant difference from the rest of the seasons' sequences: there is a shot in which the World Trade Center is visible in Tony Soprano's rear-view mirror which was, for obvious reasons, removed after 9/11.
Drea de Matteo had to spend four hours in hair and make-up before shooting each episode in order to achieve her "mob girl" look. It took two hours to prepare her hair, and in the instances in which her arms, legs, and/or torso were uncovered, an hour and a half to apply make-up to cover her tattoos.
In the second season the word "fu-ck" is said seven hundred fifteen times. Tony (two hundred sixty-four), Sil (thirty-four), Paulie (thirty-one), Christopher (sixty-eight), Carmela (nine), Others (three hundred nine).
Steven Van Zandt's Silvio Dante character was based on a character of the same name in a short story Van Zandt wrote and showed to series creator David Chase.
Michael Imperioli is the only major cast member whose credits also include writing or co-writing for the series, having worked on five episodes. Appearing in a recurring role, Toni Kalem, as Angie Bompensiero, also wrote one script and served as story editor on five episodes.
Ray Liotta was a top choice to play Tony Soprano, but he turned it down, stating he did not want to commit to a television series. Later, Liotta was in talks to play Ralph Cifaretto, but ended up not taking the part.
According to Terence Winter, Steve Buscemi had signed up for two seasons, but David Chase felt eventually that his story needed to be told only in one.
Many local New Jersey businesses are used as locations in the series. In the opening credits, we see a shot of a pizza shack known as Pizza Land. They get calls for pizza orders from all over the country as a result. In one episode, an actual sporting goods store, Ramsey Outdoor in Paramus, was portrayed as going out of business. So many people thought the real store was closing, that the owners had to place ads explaining that they were still open.
The only cast members with no Italian heritage are Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Robert Iler, David Proval, Nancy Marchand, and Jerry Adler. (Although Adler's character, was never supposed to be Italian)
In a recent interview, David Chase has stated that some of his favorite characters include Christopher and Junior, mainly due to their self-pity, arrogance, and selfishness.
In season one, episode ten, "A Hit Is a Hit", Christopher says Silvio owned rock clubs in Asbury. Silvio was played by Steven Van Zandt, who is a member of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, who got their start playing at the Stone Pony (a rock club) in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
David Chase claims the relationship between Tony and his mother Livia was based on his relationship with his own mother, Norma. Livia is also the name of the Roman emperor Augustus' conniving, murderous wife, especially as portrayed in I, Claudius (1976).
In season five, a story about Feech La Manna was told, concerning his killing of a New Jersey longshoreman for refusing to give up his favorite seat in a bar. This story was based on a true-life incident involving former Philadelphia/Atlantic City crime boss Nicodemo Scarfo (a.k.a. "Little Nicky").
Originally, series creator David Chase was going to call the key character Tommy Soprano. He later changed it to Tony.
The large mugshot on the wall of the Bada Bing's office is of twenty-three-year-old Frank Sinatra. In 1938, Sinatra was arrested and charged with "seduction of a married woman".
When Jamie-Lynn Sigler was first called in to audition for Meadow Soprano, she knew nothing about the premise of the show. From the title, she thought it might be about opera singers.
"Oogatz", as it is used in the show, means zero, nothing. It derives from the Italian slang "un cazzo" meaning "a dick". Similarly, Tony's boat is called "The Stugots", which also derives from the phrase "sto (questo) cazzo" meaning "this dick".
Drea de Matteo's unnamed "hostess" character appeared in the pilot, in a quick restaurant scene. In the next episode, she appeared as Adriana La Cerva, Chris Moltisanti's girlfriend. Later, she is Artie Bucco's hostess.
When asked if there would ever be a movie based on the series, James Gandolfini replied "when David Chase goes broke."
The "Bada Bing" strip club is actually a go-go bar in Lodi, New Jersey, called Satin Dolls. It used to be a nightclub called Tara's. Before that, it was the diner Hearth 17.
Tony refers to Christopher as his "nephew" throughout the series. However, Christopher is Carmela's second cousin on his father's side, who is known as Dickie, and Christopher is Tony's first cousin once removed on his mother's side, since Christopher's mother is Tony's first cousin.
Whenever an actor or actress would go to David Chase to complain about his or her character, arguing the character would never do this or that thing, it has been reported multiple times that Chase would respond: "Who told you it is your character?"
When Steven Van Zandt landed the role of Silvio, his character's suits were made by real-life underworld figure John Gotti's tailor. Gotti was serving a life sentence at the time. Van Zandt knew early on that he was about to become part of a television series determined to reflect realism in mob life when he noticed the character Johnny Ola (Dominic Chianese from The Godfather: Part II (1974)) sitting opposite him in rehearsals.
Joe Pantoliano was told when he first took the role of Ralph that the character would only last two seasons.
Asked what he thought of the series, Martin Scorsese admitted that he watched a few episodes, but couldn't get into the show, claiming that it was a different generation's gangster culture than what he remembered and grew up around.
The writers carefully researched the ways in which mobsters controlled and laundered their money in order to make Tony Soprano as realistic as possible, and they employed New York Assistant District Attorney Dan Castleman to advise them on this issue. When Castleman was asked how much they had decided Tony would realistically be worth, he stated that it was roughly $5-6 million, an amount that fluctuated, of course, because of Tony's substantial gambling problem.
Max Casella (Benny Fazio) originally auditioned for the parts of Matt Bevilaqua and Jackie Aprile, Jr. Both characters only lasted one season, but Benny remained until the final episode.
The increasingly long gap between seasons three, four, five, and six was due to the fact that series creator David Chase requested more time to prep their production, a suggestion made to him by friend Steven Van Zandt during the season three wrap party.
No one directed more episodes than Tim Van Patten, twenty of the eighty-six shows, for which he received four Emmy nominations. He also shared a Writers Guild award for his story idea for season three, episode eleven, "Pine Barrens", which, oddly enough, he did not direct.
The concept of family is an essential ingredient of this series about La Cosa Nostra ("Our Thing"), a fact also reflected in the show's production. Besides the LuPone and LaPaglia connections mentioned above, David Chase cast his daughter Michele DeCesare in six episodes as Meadow's friend, Hunter. Even more familial is the casting of real-life husband-and-wife Steven Van Zandt and Maureen Van Zandt as Silvio and Gabriella Dante. As well, on the series' production team, longtime writers and producers Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess are a married couple. In addition, Lorraine Bracco's sister Elizabeth Bracco appeared as Marie Spatafore in eight episodes. Dominic Chianese, Jr., son of the actor portraying Uncle Junior, appears in three final season shows as a soldier in the Lupertazzi crime family. Then there's Michael Buscemi, brother of the noted director and cast member Steve Buscemi, who showed up early on in the series' fourth episode. Finally, Joyce Van Patten, half-sister of The Sopranos (1999) veteran director Timothy Van Patten, appears in one episode in season four, while his daughter, Grace Van Patten, appeared twice in the final season.
Jamie-Lynn Sigler was credited as Jamie-Lyn DiScala in season five after she married her manager A.J. Discala. She quickly resumed her maiden name in season six after her divorce.
The Sopranos lived at 633 Stag Trail Road, North Caldwell, New Jersey. The house used in exterior shots is actually located at 14 Aspen Drive in North Caldwell.
The character "A.J. Soprano" was ranked #10 in TV Guide's list of "TV's 10 Biggest Brats" (March 27, 2005 issue).
Joseph R. Gannascoli was originally cast in a season one cameo as Gino, a customer in the the bakery where Christopher shoots a teenage counter boy in the foot. He was then re-cast as Vito Spatafore in season two, and continued in that role until the end of season six, part 1.
The series started as a movie pitch. David Chase initially wanted his creation to be a movie, and the original scripts that he wrote were for a feature-length production about a mobster who went to visit a psychiatrist. These themes were eventually carried over into the show, of course, mainly because Chase's manager believed that the characters were so well-written that they deserved the extensive time that they would be granted in a television series.
Among the celebrities who have appeared as themselves in various episodes are Jon Favreau, Sandra Bernhard, Janeane Garofalo, David Lee Roth, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Nancy Sinatra, and Lawrence Taylor. Annette Bening was featured in season five, episode eleven, "The Test Dream". Sir Ben Kingsley and Lauren Bacall appeared in season six, episode seven, "Luxury Lounge", as does, very briefly, Wilmer Valderrama. In season six, episode fourteen, "Stage 5", Danny Baldwin, Jonathan LaPaglia, Geraldo Rivera, and Sir Ben Kingsley appeared as themselves.
Five of the regular cast members appeared in Goodfellas (1990): Lorraine Bracco, Michael Imperioli, Tony Sirico, Vincent Pastore, and Frank Vincent. Ten recurring cast members also appeared in the movie: Nicole Burdette, Tony Darrow, Tony Lip, Frank Pellegrino, John "Cha Cha" Ciarcia, Suzanne Shepherd, Paul Herman, Marianne Leone, Daniel P. Conte, and Frank Albanese. Eleven one-time guest stars also appeared in the movie: Nancy Cassaro, Anthony Caso (as Martin Scorsese), Chuck Low, Tobin Bell, Gene Canfield, Gaetano LoGiudice, Vito Antuofermo, Frank Adonis, Anthony Alessandro, Victor Colicchio, and Angela Pietropinto (supposedly, Joseph R. Gannascoli was an extra in the movie, but this has not been verified). In contrast, Dominic Chianese is the only major "Sopranos" cast member who also appeared in The Godfather film franchise, as Johnny Ola in The Godfather: Part II (1974) (Tony Sirico claims to have been an extra in that movie, but this has not been verified).
During several episodes a high-pitched squealing sound can be heard in some outdoor scenes. That is the sound of the elevated #7 train going around a turn one block from the studio where the indoor and some outdoor scenes were filmed in Queens, New York.
The show was originally going to be a cable series on FOX starring Anthony LaPaglia before HBO picked it up.
Whenever Tony and A.J. are accused of lying, they both always reply with "I told you!"
In season five, the race track to which they go was Riverhead Raceway in Riverhead, Long Island, New York. In the episode, it was sold, but in real life, it wasn't. So many people called the track wanting to know if it had been sold that the owners had to put a sign up saying that they hadn't sold.
The character of Hesh, the Jewish gangster (Jerry Adler) who is a trusted associate of Tony Soprano, is said to have been based on Morris Levy, the founder of Roulette Records, and one-time owner of the famous "Birdland" nightclub in New York City. Levy had a long reputation as being a close associate of several high-ranking New York City Mafia figures, and had no compunction about using his ties with them to keep recalcitrant and/or ambitious Roulette artists in line or to steal artists from other labels. One story has it that when singer Jackie Wilson, at the time under contract to Roulette, tried to break his contract in order to take a more lucrative one offered him by Brunswick Records, Levy knocked him unconscious. When Wilson regained consciousness, Levy dragged him to the window of his tenth-floor office and hung him out of the window by his heels until he agreed to pay Levy several times more than his contract was worth, in order to gain his release (and to also not be dropped ten stories to his death).
David Chase's inspiration for the character Dr. Melfi came from his own psychiatrist at the time, Dr. Lorraine Kaufman, and eventually contributed to the psychological development of some of the characters.
David Chase had to CGI Nancy Marchand's face onto a body double after she tragically died at the start of season three.
Tony Sirico and Frank Vincent auditioned for the role of Uncle Junior. Sirico was offered the role of Paulie instead. Vincent joined the cast as Phil in the fifth season.
Six cast members, in major or recurring roles, in this show also appeared in the mob comedy Mickey Blue Eyes (1999). During an episode in season two, in an insider's type of gentle tweak, a movie executive character dismisses "Mickey" as a box-office bomb.
The fictional DiMeo family, which was said to have run North Jersey earlier in the series, is a name that may have been a nod to series prop master Anthony Dimeo, who worked on almost half the series' episodes. Even more of a nod was given to another behind-the-scenes guy, assistant prop master Joseph Badalucco, Jr., who did double duty on the show as an actor, playing capo Jimmy Altieri in eight episodes.
At least three prominent American movie directors played characters in the series: Peter Bogdanovich as psychologist Dr. Elliot Kupferberg in the only major recurring role, but Paul Mazursky and Sydney Pollack also appeared in a total of three episodes. Amongst actors/directors, Steve Buscemi was not only a prominent cast member, featured in thirteen episodes, but he also directed four other shows. Jon Favreau appeared playing himself in season two, episode seven, "D-Girl". However, Martin Scorsese, referred to in some episodes by Sopranos characters familiar with his work simply as "Marty", was played by a look-a-like in season one, episode two, "46 Long", when Scorsese is supposed to have been spotted entering a club.
David Chase wanted Steve Buscemi to direct on the show because he was a big fan of Buscemi's Trees Lounge (1996).
Tony, A.J. and Junior all have the middle name of John. Sylvio's middle name is Manfred.
In January 2000, the Coalition of Italian-American Associations issued a joint statement condemning the show for perpetuating negative Italian-American stereotypes.
Steve Schirripa (Bobby Bacala) originally auditioned for the role of FBI agent Skip Lipari.
#1 in TV Guide's Top 60 Greatest TV series of all time (2013). Moving up from #5 in their Top 50 list (2002), despite the show having only aired for three seasons at the time.
David Chase has stated John F. Kennedy, his family, and his administration were sources of inspiration and influence for many aspects within the series.
Nancy Marchand (Tony's mother Livia Soprano) was born on June 19, 1928, and died one day before her seventy-second birthday on June 18, 2000. James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) died on Marchand's eighty-fifth birthday on June 19, 2013.
Patti LuPone auditioned for the role of Janice Soprano. While she never appeared in the series, her real-life older brother, Robert LuPone, appeared in five episodes as the Sopranos' neighbor and family physician, Dr. Bruce Cusamano.
Voted by the Writer's Guild Of America as #1 in their 101 Best Written TV Series of all time list.
Joseph Siravo and Rocco Sisto, who play brothers Johnny Boy and the younger Junior Soprano, appeared as members the same "family" in Carlito's Way (1993). Also, both attempted to kill David Kleinfeld at different points in the movie.
In season one, Chris (Michael Imperioli) shot an employee of a bakery in the foot. Ironically, in Goodfellas (1990), Joe Pesci shot Michael Imperioli in the foot.
Grace Johnston was first choice for the role of Meadow, but she turned it down to finish school.
In season five, the word "fu-ck" is said six hundred times. Tony (one hundred ninety-five), Sil (eight), Paulie (twenty), Christopher (ninety-four), Carmela (twelve), Others (two hundred seventy-one).
David Chase during an interview about the ending stated, "Everything you need to know about the show's ending is there."
Although Lorraine Bracco received second billing in the opening credits, she appeared in fewer episodes than Edie Falco, who received third billing.
The "Green Grove" retirement community was based on, and filmed at, the Green Hill retirement community in West Orange, New Jersey.
Dan Castleman, who spent thirty years in the Manhattan District Attorney's office, as chief of the Rackets Bureau and then of Investigations, acted as a prosecutor in nine episodes, and as a Technical Consultant in ten. Reportedly, in his career, when he was not endorsed by his boss to succeed him as Manhattan's next D.A., he left to become a private security consultant.
According to Matthew Weiner, David Chase fired Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess, but let them say that they had chosen to leave the show.
The introduction music to the show was ninety beats per minute for the first season, and for the DVD title music. However, from season two onward, the speed of the music was increased to ninety-three and a half beats per minute. The pitch also lifted respectively. This may have been to cut down on time.
In the middle of the series, Tony told his son, A J., that his favorite scene in The Godfather was when Michael Corlione killed rival mobsters by entering a restaurant and then going into the restroom to retrieve a hidden gun. Because of that, it stands to reason this was also what awaited Tony in the mysterious final episode where the man in the Members Only jacket enters the restaurant where Tony and his family are having dinner.
In season three, the word "fu-ck" is said six hundred four times. Tony (one hundred sixty-nine), Sil (nineteen), Paulie (eighty-one), Christopher (seventy-two), Carmela (three), Others (two hundred sixty).
In the pilot, "Satriale's" was "Centanni's Meat Market". Centanni's is an actual neighborhood butcher, but they couldn't shut down every time the show needed to shoot. Location scouts went out and found an abandoned building and modelled it into a pork store, which became Satriale's.
In a 2019 interview with the New York Times, David Chase was asked what Tony would have made of Donald Trump becoming president. Chase said: "He would think the guy was full of shit. Whether he thought he was a good president or not, I don't know that Tony thought much about that question at all, with anybody who was in office. But I know Tony would have thought Trump was penny ante, in terms of his lying and presentation."
The ending is considered one of the most popular, yet hotly debated topics in television finale history.
In season six, part 1, the word "fu-ck" was said four hundred fifty-two times. Tony (one hundred twenty-five), Sil (thirteen), Paulie (forty-eight), Christopher (sixty-five), Carmela (eight), Others (one hundred ninety-three).
In season five, episode four, "All Happy Families..." Tony (James Gandolfini) gives his cousin Tony (Steve Buscemi) an old hand crank drill claiming "I don't know what happened to the DeWalt", a nod to a previous episode in season three, where he lent the drill to Carmela's cousin Brian as a cover for Tony to give him an expensive watch.
In season one, the word "fu-ck" was said four hundred thirty-seven times. Tony (one hundred thirty-four), Sil (twenty), Paulie (twenty-five), Christopher (sixty-one), Carmela (five), Others (one hundred ninety-two).
Christian Maelen was David Chase's second choice to play Christopher Moltisanti. He provided the voice of Big Pussy's son, Joey LaRocca, in the video game The Sopranos: Road to Respect (2006).
Only one of the eighty-six episodes was directed by a woman, Lorraine Senna, season one, episode seven, "Down Neck".
In season one, Big Pussy and Silvios wives are mentioned by name, but played by different actresses. In season two, Christopher's mother was originally played by a different actress.
In season four, the word "fu-ck" was said four hundred twenty-five times. Tony (one hundred fifty-five), Sil (twelve), Paulie (eighteen), Christopher (forty-eight), Carmela (ten), Others (one hundred eighty-two).
Maureen Van Zandt (Gabriella Dante), the wife of Silvio "Sil" Dante (Steven Van Zandt), played Angelina "The Ex" Tagliano, the ex-wife of Frank "The Fixer" Tagliano, a.k.a. Giovanni "Johnny" Henriksen (Steven Van Zandt) on the show Lilyhammer (2012). Maureen Van Zandt and Steven Van Zandt are married in real-life.
Due to James Gandolfini passing away, his son Michael will play Tony in the upcoming Sopranos movie on HBO.
Three women contributed to the writing of the series: writer and producer Robin Green wrote or co-wrote twenty-two episodes; Diane Frolov is credited with four, and cast member Toni Kalem wrote one episode, and was the story editor on five others.
Tony Soprano takes the medication, Prozac, as a part of his therapy. Yet is seen throughout the series consuming alcohol. Mixing alcohol and Prozac is considered dangerous by the psychiatric community. Alcohol can nullify the effects of Prozac.
Struggling screenwriter Christopher Moltisanti was portrayed by screenwriter Michael Imperioli.
Bobby Bacala is a model-train enthusiast. In real-life, the father of Frankie Valli, who played Rusty Millio, was a display designer for Lionel model trains.
Frank Vincent, Joe Pantoliano, and Robert Loggia all did voice acting for Grand Theft Auto 3 (2001).
Tony Soprano's best friends are Silvio, Artie, Big Pussy, Jackie Aprile, Sr., and Tony Blundetto. Tony loves Christopher Moltisanti like a son.
One of the shows covered in TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time by Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall.