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The Sopranos also streams on HBO Go/Now and Amazon Prime.) Sepinwall now writes on TV for Rolling Stone, and Seitz is a TV critic for New York Magazine and editor-at-large of Roger
The show is about our complicity in evil, how we rationalize it even as it is part of our lives.
And as an audience, we’re rooting for Tony to kill his enemies, make a lot of money, and get away with it. He got into screenwriting to make a movie that went to the Cannes Film Festival and won the Palme D’Or.
In this exclusive excerpt, series creator David Chase, screenwriter Terence Winter, and episode director Steve Buscemi talk about the classic season three episode “Pine Barrens” (aka, the one where Christopher and Paulie try to dump the Russian mobster and get lost in the woods).. Now, we didn’t do folktales every week, but it seemed appropriate for this.
How much of that humor, those jokes, those gags were on the page, and how much of those came about when you were on location? The point I remember, reading the script and just laughing so hard, was, “He killed Czechoslovakians and he’s an interior decorator! Matt Zoller Seitz: Terry, do you share that interpretation about why we don’t care what happens to the Russian? And even over the years, I lobbied for it, saying, “It’d be cool to finally pay it off.” I think at one point, I almost had David agreeing with me, and I made the cardinal [mistake] of saying, “People will love it! We shouldn’t do it for ] This was absolutely the right way to go, and we never should have known what happened.
Terence Winter: Despite what was on the page, when you get those guys out there doing it, you can describe Steve Schirripa walking out in a hunting costume . You were always lucky to get a scene of them together, and then to put those two guys in that circumstance, where they’re at each other’s throats—for me, that’s the funniest situation you can put two people in, is when two people are under pressure, literally, in an enclosed space, and have them go at each other. it was almost like a moment out of “Pine Barrens” because I could see you going, “What does it matter what happened? Have people ever stopped asking you about the Russian? But I kind of feel like we got to do that here tonight, in a way, because this, for me, is the first blatant example in of that kind of thing—the thing that most people would fixate on, the obvious, linear narrative thing like, “What happened to the Russian? They’re like, “Yeah, kids found him, they sent him to Russia and nursed him back to health, but he can’t really talk.” All through the meeting, he’s just kind of looking at Christopher, and you feel like he knows but he can’t communicate it.
Matt Zoller Seitz: And I think that’s maybe one of Tony’s best moments, is this episode, because of the madness in his eyes. I call it “The HBO Show Model.” When Tony is touring colleges with Meadow, and he stumbles across a rat who’s in witness protection, you know he has to kill him. He likes Fellini movies, where you didn’t know what’s a dream and what’s real. And he gets to The Sopranos and all his years of frustration were over.There are so many little touches that make the difference.Terence Winter: That was maybe the biggest negotiation we’d ever had in the middle of our lives. Is there going to be a gang war between Tony’s gang and the Russian’s? Tony Sirico is standing in the middle of the woods, and his character is so well put together. In summer of 2001, HBO did a presentation at the Television Critics Association press tour, and everybody was asking about the Russian. TV writers Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall met as critics at the Newark Star-Ledger in 1997 — the newspaper Tony picks up from his North Jersey driveway in the morning — where they followed The Sopranos from the start.Now, they’ve written a book to mark the anniversary. Abrams, ) offers new essays on each of the show’s 86 episodes, plus a back-and-forth on what “really” happened in that last scene.The book also includes eight “sessions” with Chase — long, revealing interviews exploring the show and its making — and much more.Readers relive a lot we already knew, learn a lot we didn’t, and end up … (HBO has been rerunning it to celebrate the 20th anniversary, including a marathon of the show’s final season beginning today at noon on HBO2.On this date in 1999, the first episode opened on HBO with that grainy, jagged, hand-held camera sequence of North Jersey landscapes.We met the Soprano family, starting with the monumental James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano and including wife, Carmela, kids Meadow and A. Addicting millions as it went, The Sopranos ran until June 10, 2007, with that enigmatic cut to black.