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The Sopranos: Mob Rule

The wiseguys of HBO's "The Sopranos" take a shot at another season of the award-winning show.
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
The Sopranos, Mar/Apr 01

(continued from page 5)

I think Silvio and I have a couple of things in common, Van Zandt says. Both of us really don't relate to the modern world. I, as Steven Van Zandt, have never really left the '60s. I'm still there. I don't much care for the music of today, or the television, or the movies, or the books. Silvio is farther back. He's in the '40s and '50s. That's the culture, those are the times, he relates to.

Van Zandt, who as Silvio wears a shiny black bouffant wig with a large front wave, has said he feels as if the hair is doing the acting. The look is very important to me, he told People magazine. When I look in the mirror, I've got to see Silvio. But he brings much more to the role than a look in a mirror -- and what he brings includes a personal assessment of his character's character.

Unlike a lot of other characters, Silvio has no agenda except to protect the family, he says. That is his main motivation. He has some ambition, in terms of wanting to expand the family business into some entertainment areas. He's a little bit like Frank Costello, with a touch of Bugsy Siegel. He can be dangerous -- he does have a temper, but he rarely uses it within the business. He loses his cool in odd and I think humorous situations, like sporting events. That makes him a little bit unpredictable. But when it comes to the business, he tends to be very cool and professional.

A prime reason for the show's wide popularity, Van Zandt says, is that in an unusual way, people identify with Tony. These days everybody, like Tony, has two families -- one at home and one at work, he says. And balancing those two things is becoming increasingly difficult. No one has enough time for anything -- there never seems to be enough time or energy to devote to either one. I think we're all victims of time deficit disorder. So there's a bit of tension built in there, and it becomes a little more dramatic when your job is the Mob.

Despite his New Jersey face, Van Zandt was born in Boston. My mother remarried when I was seven, he says. My stepfather adopted me, which is how an Italian got a Dutch name.

He and his family moved to Middletown, New Jersey, in 1957, and as he grew up he became the musician he always wanted to be, achieving stardom with Springsteen and then abandoning it. Just as my music career was starting to take hold, I made the rather bizarre decision to throw it all away and start again, he says. I became obsessed with politics. I needed to talk about political issues.

He left the E Street Band and traveled the world, visiting troubled areas, recording albums (he called himself Little Steven) seeking to combine music with politics. In 1985, he wrote and produced Sun City, an anti-apartheid song about South Africa, which featured Bono of U2 and Lou Reed, among other artists. He has twice been honored by the United Nations for his humanitarian efforts. He recently reunited with Springsteen for a tour.

I never thought about acting, he says. And early on I developed a very odd habit. I only participate in work I feel is of really high quality. Consequently, I haven't worked very much in the last 20 years. So it was an extremely nice surprise when David Chase called.

 

Dominic Chianese portrays Uncle Junior, Tony Soprano's malevolently scheming relative and Mob compatriot. But the soft-spoken actor is nothing like the character he plays.


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