Can You Imagine ‘The Sopranos’ Without James Gandolfini? Well, It Was a Possibility

There are roles in TV and cinema history that are so iconic that you can’t imagine a world where any other actor could’ve played them. Can you imagine Titanic without Leonardo DiCaprio? The role almost went to Matthew McConaughey! Can you imagine a world where instead of playing Monica Gellar, Courteney Cox played Rachel? It’s a Sliding Doors-esque world of possibilities!

It’s hard to imagine a version of The Sopranos where Tony Soprano is played by anyone other than the late James Gandolfini, but according to series creator David Chase, it was a possibility. In fact, ScreenRant reports that Gandolfini nearly lost the role after storming out of his first audition.

As the story goes, Susan Fitzgerald — who was supervising development and production on the soon-to-be HBO smash hit — had her eye on Gandolfini as a potential Tony Soprano after seeing him in True Romance.

While Gandolfini liked the script, he assumed they’d end up casting “some Italian George Clooney”. Still, he went in to read for the role.

According to Chase, Gandolfini was mid-audition when he stopped reciting his lines, announcing: “This is s**t. I gotta stop.”

“He left the room, went down the street and disappeared,” Chase recalled, before going onto explain that the pair later met up in Chase’s garage, where Gandolfini landed the now-iconic gig.

Things were far from peachy between the two from there, though. In fact, by the show’s final season, Chase and Gandolfini were “barely talking”.

“I remember at the last party or screening or Emmy’s, it was the last time we’d all be together, and we’re sitting at a table, [Gandolfini] went by with his food and my wife said ‘Jim, come sit over here,’ and he just ignored her and sat someplace else,” Chase said on the Happy Sad Confused podcast. “He started that kind of stuff, for my wife I was infuriated. I suddenly said to myself, ‘I really hate that motherf***er, I hate that guy.’ That’s what it had come to.'”

Still, after wrapping production on The Sopranos the pair patched things up, and went on to work together once more, on Chase’s 2012 film Not Fade Away, one of the actor’s final roles.

So, in a world where Chase didn’t give Gandolfini a second audition for The Sopranos, who else was in the running? There were quite a few actors in the mix! Ray Liotta was considered, as well as Steven Van Zandt, who ended up playing Silvio Dante, as well as Anthony LaPaglia and Michael Rispoli.

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