Twenty-five years after The Sopranos premiered on HBO, 12 surviving cast members of the acclaimed HBO series stood on a Manhattan stage on Thursday night, fanned out in a row as they received loud applause from the sold-out audience and were joined by two of the drama's top writers - one of whom was the true man of the hour, show creator David Chase.

The Sopranos' silver anniversary would be enough reason for reuniting the cast of what is considered by many critics, fans and even casual TV viewers to be the greatest TV drama of all time. But Thursday's gathering at the Beacon Theater of most of The Sopranos' central players - Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli and Drea de Matteo, to name just a few - had a major motion picture attached from documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney.

The nearly two-hour-and-forty-minute film,Wise Guy: David Chase and the Sopranos, provides plenty of fan service, with fun audition tapes of some of the main castmembers - and funny anecdotes from the cast, who shared stories with the crowd at the Tribeca Festival event as they sat in a long row across the Beacon's stage after the screen had gone up. De Matteo, who won an Emmy playing mob girlfriend Adriana La Cerva, recalled getting the call that forever changed her career trajectory from film school student to actor; it was an eager producer who rang while she was living at her parents' home in Queens.

"I thought it was a show about opera singers," she recalled before the crowd, laughing. "I think it was a cold reading too, and I read for, like, five different roles. … I guess there were more lines, but it was [De Matteo's reading of the line] ‘Oww!' [Sopranos producer] Ilene Landress always says the part was mine when I said ‘Ow!' and turned it into 10 syllables - like my mom told me to do - ‘Owwwwwww-wuh!'"

Some compelling tidbits and new details about the show were revealed on the stage and in the documentary. It turns out that Annabella Sciorra, who played Tony Soprano's mistress, Gloria Trillo, had been considered for the pivotal role of Dr. Melfi, Tony's shrink throughout the series. However, her agent had apparently told Chase that Sciorra wasn't interested in TV; Sciorra told Chase on stage that she never had seen a word about the show creator looking at her for the compelling role, which went to Lorraine Bracco. 

Chase also made some news in the documentary, revealing that HBO decided to split the show's sixth season into two parts rather than have a seventh season of The Sopranos because the network wanted to avoid having to negotiate new contracts with the sizeable cast of the hit show. Gandolfini, however, managed to hold network executives' feet to the fire and out of gratitude to the cast, gave each of them $30,000.

The late Gandolfini was dearly missed and lovingly discussed from the stage, and his presence is naturally the missing piece of the otherwise thorough documentary - which isn't only a dear gift to The Sopranos' growing fanbase, but a thoughtful consideration of Chase, looking at the blunt and brilliant man's TV career and sidelined dreams of filmmaking and how his childhood and family life guided The Sopranos, all while respectfully poking at his enduring professional mystique. 

On Thursday night, as the doc's director, Gibney, who was acting as emcee at the Beacon event, moved down the row to each cast member and writer with a tailored question about the production or asked them to share their experiences on the show, some made some sharp quips and others told sentimental stories. Imperioli took the opportunity to reflect on The Sopranos in broader strokes, and he may have gotten the loudest in-house response when he spoke on his reaction to a recent re-watch of the series.

‘It was way better than I thought - and I remembered it being great," Imperioli said. "But with some distance, you know, a little bit more objectivity - how thorough of a production it was on every level of the filmmaking, and the details … it's just remarkable. I mean, how fantastic it is and how well it holds up over time."

Wise Guy: David Chase and the Sopranos will debut at a date yet to be determined on Max.

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2024-06-14T18:45:25Z dg43tfdfdgfd