It’s been five years since the controversial final episode of “The Sopranos” aired, and fans of the series have long awaited creator David Chase’s next move. A Stanford alumnus, Chase M.A. ‘71 is making his feature film debut after working in television for almost three decades. The film, “Not Fade Away,” was screened on campus followed by a Q-and-A session with Chase.
“I wanted to make a film a long time ago, and I just never got the opportunity. I wrote scripts, but I couldn’t get a movie produced,” Chase said.
“Not Fade Away” tells the story of a group of young friends growing up in suburban New Jersey in the 1960s. Inspired by the disruptive musical scene at the time, the gang of friends decides to form a band. But unlike a lot of other films about aspiring musicians, the members of this band never makes it past a demo.
The plot focuses on Douglas (John Magaro), the drummer in the band, and his relationship with his family and with Grace (Bella Heathcote), his love interest in the film. Relative newcomers Magaro and Heathcote are joined by Lisa Lampanelli, Brad Garrett, Jack Huston and James Gandolfini, probably best known for playing Tony Soprano.
On reuniting with Gandolfini again, Chase said, “It was great, it was really great. I think Jim and I got a lot closer on this movie personally than we had left things on ‘The Sopranos.’ And he’s just a genius. He works, works, works, works, works at an acting problem until he figures out a way to do it. He’s very inventive.”
Gandolfini was also rejoined by fellow “Sopranos” cast member Steven van Zandt, who acted as music supervisor on the film, writing a song played by the band in the film and putting some of the actors through a “boot camp” to prepare for the film.
“We started at the end of October, and by the time we were ready to shoot in February, they could have gotten by as a band. They could have played dances and bars things like that,” Chase said.
From the very beginning of the film, a voiceover from Douglas’s sister informs the audience that this is the story of a band that they’ve probably never heard of. The film is just as much about the band members’ personal lives as it is about their musical careers. The band’s inability to recognize the work and time commitment necessary for success is one of the film’s main messages.
Chase related the subject to a Brian Eno quote.
“He [Eno] said, ‘I think it’s important for people to know that little trees come from shit. And why that’s important is that people should say to themselves well I’m shit and maybe something important could come from me.’ I found that very moving and important and that’s sort of my version of that.”
While the film has many serious moments, some of the most memorable aspects of the film are the amusing and darkly funny little moments between the members of Douglas’s family and the members of the band.
“That’s what it’s always about for me is those little details,” Chase said. “When Mark Johnson, who produced it, when he read the script and we had our first meeting he said to me, ‘This is an epic in a small frame,’ and that’s kind of why I decided to get in business with him I think he understood that it’s epic in some way but it’s in a very small frame.”