Why do you think people are so intent on getting an answer?
DAVID CHASE: I remember I would tell my kid and her cousins bedtime stories. Sometimes I would want to get back to the grown-ups and have a drink, so I would say something like, ''And they were driving down the road and that's it. Story over.'' They would always scream, ''Wait a minute! That's no ending!'' Apparently that need for finality exists in human beings. But we're not children anymore. Especially watching a show like The Sopranos that's got sex and violence.
You've said that you knew what the final scene would be for several years before it happened. What was the seed of the idea?
As I recall, it was just that Tony and his family would be in a diner having dinner and a guy would come in. Pretty much what you saw.
So you just had to get them to the diner?
Yeah. But it's not that difficult. Whatever else happens, people are going to have to stop and eat.
Was Journey there from the beginning?
I had thought about using ''Don't Stop Believin''' a couple times over the course of the series in a background way, but I had forgotten about it until my nephew sent me a mix tape with the song on it. I knew it would be controversial, because Journey has a reputation that most people wouldn't associate with our show.
Did you consider other songs?
When we were scouting locations, I actually took several songs in the van and played them for the crew. I'd never done that before. When the Journey song came on, everybody went, ''Oh no! Jesus, David, what are you thinking?'' But then they started to say, ''You know what? This is kind of good. This is a great f---ing song!''
What about the black screen?
Originally, I didn't want any credits at all. I just wanted the black screen to go the length of the credits all the way to the HBO whoosh sound. But the Director's Guild wouldn't give us a waiver.
Did you think of it as a prank people thinking their TVs had gone out?
I saw some items in the press that said, ''This was a huge 'f--- you' to the audience.'' That we were s---ting in the audience's face. Why would we want to do that? Why would we entertain people for eight years only to give them the finger? We don't have contempt for the audience. In fact, I think The Sopranos is the only show that actually gave the audience credit for having some intelligence and attention span. We always operated as though people don't need to be spoon-fed every single thing that their instincts and feelings and humanity will tell them what's going on.
It seems part of what upsets people is your ruthlessness. The idea that nothing ever changes or gets better.
I disagree. People have said that the Soprano family's whole life goes in the toilet in the last episode. That the parents' whole twisted lifestyle is visited on the children. And that's true to a certain extent. But look at it: A.J.'s not going to become a citizen-soldier or join the Peace Corps to try to help the world; he'll probably be a low-level movie producer. But he's not going to be a killer like his father, is he? Meadow may not become a pediatrician or even a lawyer, but she's not going to be a housewife-whore like her mother. She'll learn to operate in the world in a way that Carmela never did. It's not ideal. It's not what the parents dreamed of. But it's better than it was. Tiny, little bits of progress that's how it works.
Do you believe life has an arc? Or is it just a bunch of stuff that happens?
Is there a pupose, you mean? Everything I have to say about that is in the show. Go look at Albert Camus' Myth of Sisyphus. It's all there: Life seems to have no purpose but we have to go on behaving as thought it does. We have to go on behaving toward each other like people who would love.
So, it's still worth trying?
Of course. What else are you going to do? Watch TV?
(Interview by Brett Martin. Excerpted from The Sopranos: The Complete Book, Time Inc. Home Entertainment, out next week.)