David Chase

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David Chase
David Chase.jpg
Birth name David Henry DeCesare
Born August 22, 1945 in Mount Vernon, New York, USA
Notable Shows Kolchak: The Night Stalker
The Rockford Files
Off the Minnesota Strip
I'll Fly Away
Northern Exposure
The Sopranos
Notable Episodes The Rockford Files: 3x02 - The Oracle Wore a Cashmere Suit
I'll Fly Away: 1x13 - Master Magician
The Sopranos: 1x01 - The Sopranos
The Sopranos: 1x05 - College
The Sopranos: 2x13 - Funhouse
The Sopranos: 3x02 - Proshai, Livushka
The Sopranos: 4x13 - Whitecaps
The Sopranos: 6x18 - Kennedy and Heidi
The Sopranos: 6x21 - Made in America
Awards 7 Emmys
1 DGA TV Award
4 PGA TV Awards
1 PGA Lifetime Achievement in Television Award
1 WGA TV Award
1 Banff Television Festival Award of Excellence, Canada
1 Biarritz International Festival of Audiovisual Programming Silver FIPA, France
1 Edgar Allan Poe Awards Special Edgar, USA

David Chase is an American writer, director, producer and series creator best known for having created the hit influential TV show The Sopranos.

Contents

Biography

David DeCesare was born on August 22, 1945 in Mount Vernon, New York, the only son of Henry and Norma DeCesare, and raised in Clifton and North Caldwell, New Jersey. Despite his birth certificate name, his grandfather had been the one to adopt the Anglicized name "Chase" early in the century. Henry DeCesare was a harware store owner who belittled young David, and David has described Norma, who worked as a telephone book proofreader, as domineering, depressive and implacable—a direct inspiration for Livia Soprano. Despite his Italian-American origins and the Roman Catholic trappings of some of his most notable shows (particularly The Sopranos), he was raised as a Protestant. As a child, he was fascinated by gangster TV shows such as The Untouchables and movies such as The Public Enemy, and he developed a reputation as a creative story-teller.

As he moved into his teenaged years, his tastes turned more toward such notable foreign filmmakers as Federico Fellini. He also dreamt of being a drummer in a rock band and began his lifelong struggle with clinical depression. He graduated West Essex High School in 1964 and attended Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina for two years, where he claims to have slept for 18 hours a day. He then transferred to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where he bought a video camera and studied film over his parents' objections. Norma's primary objection was David would marry an Irish Catholic girl and move to California. After his graduation from NYU, David did just that in 1968—married high school sweetheart Denise Kelly and moved west. He applied to a graduate program at the University of California, Los Angeles but was rejected, and he had missed the cut-off date for the graduate program at the University of Southern California. He and Denise stayed with an aunt in the Bay Area, and he worked at a film lab until he was accepted to the graduate program at Stanford University's School of Film. There, his thesis film was a gangster short.

Chase's experiences in Hollywood were disappointing, as he had intended to break into serious film but found work at first only in softcore porn. Opportunities opened up in television, and he soon became a story editor and occasional writer for the series Kolchak: The Night Stalker in 1974. Before the decade was out, he had been a producer and writer on the critical and audience hit television show The Rockford Files. He received his first Emmy for writing the 1980 ABC movie Off the Minnesota Strip, about Minnesota prostitutes living in Manhattan. During this time, he also began psychotherapy (another significant element of The Sopranos) upon his wife's insistence, after a trip home to New Jersey for his sister-in-law's funeral, where Chase was more concerned about his mother's needling him than his wife's loss.

He gained enough confidence to make his directorial debut with a 1986 episode (which he also wrote) of the 1980s revival of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, episode 1x16 - Enough Rope for Two. For the 1988-89 season, he created his first series, Almost Grown, a drama about a pair of children of the '60s, which traces their lives from high school romance to the late '80s. Although critically acclaimed, the series could not find an audience on its network CBS and was pulled from the schedule after only nine of the thirteen episodes had aired. Mere months after the show was cancelled, Chase began doing something he had not done in his 14 years in the business—watching a television show other than his own. He was impressed by the series Twin Peaks, in which he saw a cinematic quality and poeticism absent, he felt, in other television programs. Still unable to find work in film, Chase moved on to take over the critically acclaimed shows I'll Fly Away and Northern Exposure in the '90s.

By the middle of the 1990s, Brillstein-Grey Productions was pushing Chase to create another original series, but Chase's heart remained set on film. At last, producer Brad Grey pulled Chase aside and gave him a pep talk, in which he said Chase could create any show he wanted and suggested Chase could even create the TV equivalent of The Godfather. On the drive home, Grey's reference to The Godfather turned Chase's mind to a film screenplay he had written, which his agents had rejected, about a mobster who discovers through therapy his feisty mother is pulling the strings behind a mob war in which he is a target. As he worked on The Rockford Files telefilms, Chase both condensed and expanded the screenplay into a TV pilot which came to be known as The Sopranos.

When the first network to which the pilot was pitched, FOX, turned it down, Chase and Grey shopped around for others. Grey preferred a broadcast network—although he had found success on pay cable with The Larry Sanders Show—because there was more money, he thought, to be had on broadcast. However, after no success there, he turned his attention to the home of The Larry Sanders Show, HBO. Chase, too, was more comfortable with HBO, as the networks had all preferred the show be shot in Los Angeles with exteriors shot in New Jersey, but HBO insisted on shooting entirely on location in New Jersey—what Chase intended all along. HBO also granted Chase the large music licensing budget he hoped for, although they recommended against him changing the opening credits song each week. Chase begrudgingly settled on one song he had heard on a Los Angeles radio station, A3's obscure "Woke Up This Morning," which became an international hit years after its first recording as a result of its association with the show.

Despite their apparent leniency, HBO had reservations about picking up the show upon the pilot's delivery, most of them related to cost and the TV-unfriendliness of lead James Gandolfini. Sure they would reject the series, Chase began talks to take over The X-Files and was surprised when HBO ordered a full 13-episode season. The final snag was the title, which HBO wanted to change until they saw the success of FOX's Family Guy. To fill out a first season, Chase wrote the major beats of the story line on a marker board in a very vague outline and gave his writers and himself otherwise free reign on a per-episode basis. Meanwhile, HBO pulled for a more extended story line, and the tension between the network and the creator resulted in a unique, novelistic series previously unseen on American television. The success of the show was also unprecedented for cable. When Chase read the national reviews of the pilot, he found only one pan, and within only a few episodes, cast members reported being mobbed like rock stars in public, while cast member Steven Van Zandt (who was, in fact, a rock star) was shocked to discover people asking him more about the show than about his music.

Despite the success, from the second season on, Chase wavered as to whether or not there would be another season. Throughout the series' run, Chase was unequivocal about his desire to move to film, and he had worried since Season One the previous season had written him into a corner. However, in a strange twist, when he sat down to hash out what he had decided would be the sixth and final season, he found almost two seasons' worth of material.

As the final episode of The Sopranos aired in June 2007, TV critics and journalists had already begun to wonder where Chase would move next. On the night of the series finale, Chase took Denise out to dinner near their château in France (which he had bought from Sopranos money) and refused to discuss the controversial final moments beyond what was on screen or his next project. At the time, it was already clear he would fulfill his life's ambition of entering into film, but there had been no word as to when or how the project would come about. It was clear Chase would not be refused by almost any studio, thanks to the success of The Sopranos, but he insisted his next project would not be a theatrical continuation of the series. In 2009, it was announced he would release his first feature in 2010, and he would develop a miniseries for HBO, A Ribbon of Dreams, about the early decades of Hollywood cinema.

He lives in Los Angeles and France with his wife Denise. His adult daughter Michelle DeCesare is an actress who played Hunter Scangarelo on The Sopranos.

Roles

Guest Starring Roles

Series Role Episode Airdate
Picket Fences Vinnie 4x19 - Winner Takes All June 5, 1996

Specials and Made-for-TV Movies

Title Role Airdate Series/Banner
Casting Calls Himself July 2003
HBO: The Making of "The Sopranos: Road to Respect" Interviewee 2006
The 50 Greatest Television Dramas Interviewee February 3, 2007
The Music of "The Sopranos" Interviewee 2007

Talk, News and Game Show Appearances

Series Episode Airdate
Mark Lawson Talks To... David Chase August 20, 2006
Media City Creating a Hit: The Sopranos April 15, 2007

Writer

Staff Writer

Series Year(s) Credit Season(s)
Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1974–1975 Story Consultant 1
Switch 1975–1976 Story Consultant 1

Episode Writer

Series Episode Airdate
Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1x02 - The Zombie September 20, 1974
Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1x04 - The Vampire October 4, 1974
Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1x05 - The Werewolf November 1, 1974
Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1x07 - The Devil's Platform November 15, 1974
Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1x09 - The Spanish Moss Murders December 6, 1974
Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1x11 - Horror in the Heights December 20, 1974
Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1x13 - Primal Scream January 17, 1975
Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1x15 - Chopper January 31, 1975
Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1x16 - Demon in Lace February 7, 1975
Kolchak: The Night Stalker 1x18 - The Knightly Murders March 7, 1975
Switch 1x02 - The Late Show Murders September 16, 1975
Switch 1x08 - The Body at the Bottom November 4, 1975
Switch 1x14 - Mistresses, Murder and Millions December 23, 1975
Switch 1x15 - The Walking Bomb January 6, 1976
Switch 1x19 - Before the Holocaust February 17, 1976
Switch 1x22 - The Girl on the Golden Strip March 16, 1976
The Rockford Files 3x02 - The Oracle Wore a Cashmere Suit October 1, 1976
The Rockford Files 3x08 - Rattlers' Class of '63 November 26, 1976
The Rockford Files 3x13 - Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones, but Waterbury Will Bury You January 14, 1977
The Rockford Files 3x19 - To Protect and Serve (1) March 11, 1977
The Rockford Files 3x20 - To Protect and Serve (2) March 18, 1977
The Rockford Files 4x05 - The Dog and Pony Show October 21, 1977
The Rockford Files 4x07 - Quickie Nirvana November 11, 1977
The Rockford Files 4x08 - Irving the Explainer November 18, 1977
The Rockford Files 4x12 - The Queen of Peru December 16, 1977
The Rockford Files 4x17 - Dwarf in a Helium Hat January 27, 1978
The Rockford Files 4x20 - The Prisoner of Rosemont Hall February 17, 1978
The Rockford Files 5x03 - The Jersey Bounce October 6, 1978
The Rockford Files 5x07 - A Three-Day Affair with a Thirty-Day Escrow November 10, 1978
The Rockford Files 5x09 - Black Mirror (1) November 24, 1978
The Rockford Files 5x10 - Black Mirror (2) November 24, 1978
The Rockford Files 5x17 - The Man Who Saw the Alligators February 10, 1979
The Rockford Files 6x04 - Only Rock 'n' Roll Will Never Die (1) October 19, 1979
The Rockford Files 6x05 - Only Rock 'n' Roll Will Never Die (2) October 26, 1979
The Rockford Files 6x06 - Love Is the Word November 9, 1979
The Rockford Files 6x11 - Just a Coupla Guys December 14, 1979
The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo 1x18 - Perkins Bombs Out March 10, 1980
Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985) 1x16 - Enough Rope for Two March 9, 1986
I'll Fly Away 1x13 - Master Magician March 6, 1992
I'll Fly Away 1x20 - Not Buried May 1, 1992
I'll Fly Away 2x07 - Eighteen November 13, 1992
Northern Exposure 5x12 - Mr. Sandman January 10, 1994
The Sopranos 1x01 - The Sopranos January 10, 1999
The Sopranos 1x02 - 46 Long January 17, 1999
The Sopranos 1x05 - College February 7, 1999
The Sopranos 1x08 - The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti February 28, 1999
The Sopranos 1x13 - I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano April 14, 1999
The Sopranos 2x04 - Commendatori February 6, 2000
The Sopranos 2x13 - Funhouse April 9, 2000
The Sopranos 3x01 - Mr. Ruggerio's Neighborhood March 4, 2001
The Sopranos 3x02 - Proshai, Livushka March 4, 2001
The Sopranos 3x13 - Army of One May 20, 2001
The Sopranos 4x01 - For All Debts Public and Private September 15, 2002
The Sopranos 4x02 - No Show September 22, 2002
The Sopranos 4x11 - Calling All Cars November 24, 2002
The Sopranos 4x13 - Whitecaps December 8, 2002
The Sopranos 5x01 - Two Tonys March 7, 2004
The Sopranos 5x11 - The Test Dream May 16, 2004
The Sopranos 5x13 - All Due Respect June 6, 2004
The Sopranos 6x02 - Join the Club March 19, 2006
The Sopranos 6x06 - Live Free or Die April 16, 2006
The Sopranos 6x11 - Cold Stones May 21, 2006
The Sopranos 6x12 - Kaisha June 4, 2006
The Sopranos 6x13 - Soprano Home Movies April 8, 2007
The Sopranos 6x18 - Kennedy and Heidi May 13, 2007
The Sopranos 6x20 - Blue Comet June 3, 2007
The Sopranos 6x21 - Made in America June 10, 2007

Specials and Made-for-TV Movies Written

Title Airdate Series/Banner
Off the Minnesota Strip May 5, 1980
Moonlight (1982) September 14, 1982
Punishment and Crime September 18, 1996 The Rockford Files

Director

Episode Director

Series Episode Airdate
Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985) 1x16 - Enough Rope for Two March 9, 1986
Almost Grown 1x01 - Pilot November 27, 1988
I'll Fly Away 1x20 - Not Buried May 1, 1992
I'll Fly Away 2x07 - Eighteen November 13, 1992
The Sopranos 1x01 - The Sopranos January 10, 1999
The Sopranos 6x21 - Made in America June 10, 2007

Specials and Made-for-TV Movies Directed

Title Airdate Series/Banner
Punishment and Crime September 18, 1996 The Rockford Files

Producer

Television Series

Series Year(s) Producer Credit Season(s)
The Rockford Files 1976–1977 Producer 3
The Rockford Files 1977–1979 Supervising Producer/Producer 4 5
The Rockford Files 1979 Producer 6
Almost Grown 1988–1989 Executive Producer 1
I'll Fly Away 1992–1993 Executive Producer 1 2
Northern Exposure 1993–1995 Executive Producer 5 6
The Sopranos 1999–2007 Executive Producer 1 2 3 4 5 6

Specials and Made-for-TV Movies Produced

Title Producer Credit Airdate Series/Banner
Off the Minnesota Strip Producer May 5, 1980
Moonlight (1982) Executive Producer September 14, 1982
A Blessing in Disguise Supervising Producer May 14, 1995 The Rockford Files
Punishment and Crime Executive Producer September 18, 1996 The Rockford Files

Responsible For

  • Almost Grown (1988)
  • The Sopranos (1999)

Awards and Accolades

Primetime Emmy Awards

(23 Nominations/7 Wins)

  • Won: Oustanding Drama Series (1977-78)
The Rockford Files
  • Nominated: Outstanding Drama Series (1978-79)
The Rockford Files
  • Nominated: Outstanding Drama Series (1979-80)
The Rockford Files
  • Won: Outstanding Writing in a Limited Series or a Special (1979-80)
Off the Minnesota Strip
  • Nominated: Outstanding Drama Series (1991-92)
I'll Fly Away
  • Nominated: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing in a Drama Series (1991-92)
I'll Fly Away: 1x13 - Master Magician
  • Nominated: Outstanding Drama Series (1992-93)
I'll Fly Away
  • Nominated: Outstanding Drama Series (1993-94)
Northern Exposure
  • Nominated: Outstanding Drama Series (1998-99)
The Sopranos
  • Nominated: Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (1998-99)
The Sopranos: 1x01 - The Sopranos
  • Nominated: Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (1998-99)
The Sopranos: 1x01 - The Sopranos
  • Won: Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (1998-99)
The Sopranos: 1x05 - College
  • Nominated: Outstanding Drama Series (1999-2000)
The Sopranos
  • Nominated: Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (1999-2000)
The Sopranos: 2x13 - Funhouse
  • Nominated: Outstanding Drama Series (2000-01)
The Sopranos
  • Nominated: Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (2000-01)
The Sopranos: 3x12 - Amour Fou
  • Nominated: Outstanding Drama Series (2002-03)
The Sopranos
  • Won: Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (2002-03)
The Sopranos: 4x13 - Whitecaps
  • Won: Outstanding Drama Series (2003-04)
The Sopranos
  • Nominated: Outstanding Drama Series (2005-06)
The Sopranos
  • Won: Outstanding Drama Series (2006-07)
The Sopranos
  • Nominated: Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (2006-07)
The Sopranos: 6x18 - Kennedy and Heidi
  • Won: Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (2006-07)
The Sopranos: 6x21 - Made in America

DGA TV Awards

(2 Nominations/1 Win)

  • Won: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series' - Night (1999)
The Sopranos: 1x01 - The Sopranos
  • Nominated: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Series' - Night (2007)
The Sopranos: 6x21 - Made in America

PGA TV Awards

(6 Nominations/5 Wins)

  • Won: Television Producer of the Year Award (1992)
I'll Fly Away
  • Won: Television Producer of the Year Award in Episodic (1999)
The Sopranos
  • Nominated: Television Producer of the Year Award in Episodic - Drama (2002)
The Sopranos
  • Won: Television Producer of the Year Award in Episodic - Drama (2004)
The Sopranos
  • Nominated: Television Producer of the Year Award in Episodic - Drama (2006)
The Sopranos
  • Won: Television Producer of the Year Award in Episodic - Drama (2007)
The Sopranos
  • Won: Lifetime Achievement Award in Television (2009)

WGA TV Awards

(3 Nominations/1 Win)

  • Nominated: Episodic Drama (2001)
The Sopranos: 3x02 - Proshai, Livushka
  • Won: Dramatic Series (2006)
The Sopranos
  • Nominated: Dramatic Series (2007)
The Sopranos

Banff Television Festival, Canada

(1 Win)

  • Won: Award of Excellence (2003)

Biarritz International Festival of Audiovisual Programming, France

(1 Win)

  • Won: Silver FIPA - TV Series and Serials (2000)
The Sopranos

Edgar Allan Poe Awards, USA

(1 Nomination/1 Win)

  • Nominated: Best Television Episode (1976)
The Rockford Files: 3x02 - The Oracle Wore a Cashmere Suit
  • Won: Special Edgar (2005)
Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The Rockford Files, The Sopranos and many other breakthrough TV shows

Trivia

  • Tends to insist actors deliver lines precisely as written with no improvisation, although he also admits to creating characters as a collaboration between the writers, director and actor.