Why James Gandolfini Began Referring to ‘Sopranos’ Writers as ‘Vampires’
If familiarity breeds contempt, then you can imagine the tension that existed between the cast and crew of The Sopranos after eight years of production. David Chase once remarked of star James Gandolfini, “Toward the end Jim was tired of me. And I was tired of his foibles.”
Chase and his talented team of writers had spent years developing the show’s characters to be as believable as possible. At times, they would even pull details from the lives of actors like Tony Sirico (Paulie Walnuts) to make it perfect.
You could imagine how creepy that must have felt for Sirico. One day, he’d be talking about his mother (with whom he lived) or how he was grossed out by public bathrooms. Then he’d read the script of an upcoming Sopranos episode and find that material as part of Paulie’s character.
That routine was one of the reasons Chase began to grate on Gandolfini’s nerves. In fact, he began calling Chase and his writers “vampires” for the way they’d poach material from actors’ lives.
Gandolfini began resenting the real-life details he saw in ‘Sopranos’ scripts.
As far as TV writing goes, you’ll have a hard time topping The Sopranos. When you learn how far the writing staff went to get their material, you see one reason why it was so good. Early in 2019, Chase recalled how “Tony Sirico was germophobic, so we gave that to Paulie.”
Other details from Sirico’s life made their way into scripts, too. For example, Sirico had never been to Italy before The Sopranos went to do an episode there. (Then Paulie said he’d never been to Italy.) Of course, the entire plot-line of Paulie’s mother issues drew on Sirico’s relationship with his mom.
Then there were Paulie’s phrases and mannerisms. “We’d have the writers sit and talk with us,” Sirico told Vanity Fair in 2012. “They heard the cadence of my voice and what I said, and how I expressed myself. So I had guys put down my own words and shove them right back into my throat.”
Gandolfini stopped being amused by these collisions of the actors and their fictional counterparts. “I used to call them the writers vampires,” Gandolfini told Vanity Fair. “Say, what have the vampires come up with this week? What blood are they sucking this week?”
Still, Gandolfini and Chase remained friends and worked on another film.
Earlier this year, Chase told The Irish Times how Gandolfini grew tired of him by the end and how he in turn became frustrated with Gandolfini’s way of working. But they obviously weren’t done with another when the show wrapped in 2007.
Just a few years later, Gandolfini played a major role in Not Fade Away, Chase’s feature film set in New Jersey. Had Gandolfini lived, they very well may have worked together again. (Chase recently directed a Sopranos prequel.)
But their body of work in The Sopranos speaks for itself decades later, and we doubt that will change in the coming years. Chase and his writers did everything they could to make the characters believable and, even if they acted like vampires, it worked.