On this day in 2013, James Gandolfini, the actor best known for his role as New Jersey crime boss Tony Soprano, died of a heart attack while on vacation in Rome, Italy. Here are five interesting facts you'll want to know about The Sopranos.
The Sopranos Shares 28 Cast Members With The Movie Goodfellas
Six of the regular cast members from "The Sopranos" starred in Martin Scorsese's film Goodfellas. Lorraine Bracco, Tony Sirico, Michael Imperioli, Vincent Pastore, Joseph Gannascoli, and Frank Vincent appeared in both the movie and television show. Ten recurring Sopranos characters and 11 one-time guest stars also appeared in Martin Scorsese's 1990 mobster movie.
James Gandolfini Was Not the First Choice To Play Tony It's hard to imagine anyone but James Gandolfini in the lead role of Tony Soprano, but according to David Chase, he originally envisioned Bruce Springsteen's guitarist, Steve Van Zandt, as the top dog. Chase saw Van Zandt giving a speech at the Rock n" Roll Hall of Fame and found him funny and charming. He also felt Van Zandt looked like a younger Al Pacino. HBO wasn't willing to roll the dice on a first-time actor for such an important role, which is why Gandolfini was cast. But, Chase didn't give up on having Van Zandt as part of the show—he wrote in a character especially for Van Zandt. The character Silvio Dante, who Van Zandt came to play, was in fact inspired by a short story about a retired hitman written by Van Zandt himself.
The Producers Wanted Lorraine Bracco to Play Tony’s Wife
Lorraine Bracco was cast as Tony's wife, Carmela Soprano, by the Sopranos producers after she played a similar role in Goodfellas. Bracco, on the other hand, had a different idea and asked to play Tony's psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi, because she thought it would be a more challenging role. Bracco's performance earned her four Emmy nods and three Golden Globe nominations. Carmela was, of course, played by the brilliant Edie Falco.
Tony Sirico Was a Criminal in Real Life
Tony Sirico, who played Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri, had a long rap sheet with 28 arrests, more than his 27 acting credits. The character's living arrangements and tendency toward neatness came from his real life. The similarities between Sirico and his character didn't stop there, according to both Sirico and Chase. Paulie's neat-freak tendencies and unusual living arrangements were transferred directly from Sirico's real-life to the screen. "I lived with Ma for 16 years before she passed. David knew that going in. That became one of my storylines," he told Vanity Fair.
The Theme Song Was "Woke Up This Morning" By Alabama 3
Producer David Chase wanted to try something new by playing a different song at each episode's opening credits. Other producers told him it was a bad idea, and he eventually chose "Woke Up This Morning" by Alabama 3, an English band. Alabama 3 frontman Rob Spragg created the song after reading about the 1996 murder trial of Sara Thornton, who stabbed her alcoholic husband to death after suffering years of domestic abuse at his hands. He had no idea that his song would become synonymous with Jersey mobsters.