Steven Van Zandt is known for playing Silvio Dante in "The Sopranos" but things almost turned out very differently for him.
The rocker, who appeared in 79 of the show's 86 episodes, was initially favored for the role of Tony Soprano. HBO finally decided to instead cast James Gandolfini in the role but it was a close call, he revealed to Fox News.
"As it turns out, creating Silvio Dante was collaborative because "The Sopranos" creator David Chase cast me as Tony and HBO said, 'Are you out of your f***ing mind? This is the most expensive show we’ll ever do, we can't have a guy that never acted before,'" the musician recalled. "So, wiser heads prevailed, thankfully, and one of the greatest actors ever, James Gandolfini, got the gig."
Van Zandt also spoke about nearly landing the role in the hit mob series with former bandmate Bruce Springsteen during a chat hosted by Unison Events, which was webcast Tuesday evening. The guitarist explained that although Chase was eager for him to play Tony Soprano, HBO was hesitant to cast a "guy who never acted before" in a $30 million production, according to Variety.
"Davey was like, well, HBO won’t let me," he told Springsteen.
"I said, 'Now that I’m thinking about it, David, I really appreciate this opportunity. I really do. But I feel guilty taking an actor’s job. My wife [Maureen Van Zandt] is a real actor. I watched her go to school for years, off-Broadway, off-off-Broadway, I mean, they do these classes and I feel guilty taking a job. And he says, 'All right, I’ll tell you what. I want you in the show. And I will write you in a part that doesn’t exist.'"
With that in mind, Chase tried to involve Van Zandt in as much of the process of creating his new character as possible, asking him essentially what he would like to do in the role.
"I had never thought about acting, but I was thinking about writing and maybe directing someday, and I read him a treatment about this hitman, an independent man named Silvio Dante that ran a club, but he kind of lived in the past," he explained. "It was set in present day. But in his mind with a romantic mob past, and it was like a Copacabana club and had big bands and the Jewish Catskill comics and the dancing girls."
Van Zandt noted that, in the club, the five families would have their tables and the commissioner and the police commissioner as well as the mayor.
"And it’s kind of 'like a mafia version of Casablanca," he continued. "And he [Chase] says, 'All right, well, let me think about that.’ And he comes back a couple of days later, and he says ‘We can’t afford it, but we’ll make it a strip club instead.'"
During his conversation with Springsteen, Van Zandt also spoke about his new memoir, "Unrequited Infatuations" which explores his life and career first as a musician then as an actor and activist. The book details his time with Springsteen's E Street Band, and then the next adventure that began when he left the band.
"This is where the bigger themes start to emerge, like the search for identity, the search for purpose, the search for spiritual enlightenment and doing all the rest," he said. "As you go through life, artists have a dilemma, a challenge, which is to find an audience for our work. Its art meets commerce, and the artist’s job is to attempt to make the audience care about your obsessions."
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