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David Chase finally reveals what the surprise ending of ‘The Sopranos’ really means

A scene from the final episode of "The Sopranos."Will Hart/HBO

It was one of television’s most memorable moments: The final scene in the last episode of “The Sopranos,” where Tony is out for a bite to eat with his family at a crowded diner. “Don’t Stop Believing” is playing in the background, and Tony watches the door as patrons come and go. His daughter, Meadow, walks in, and the music stops as the screen abruptly cuts to black — ending the episode, the series, and leaving viewers wondering what happened next.

Did Tony die?

Speculation, debate, and theories abound, and that final scene is still widely discussed some 14 years after it first aired. Now the show’s creator, David Chase, is apparently ready to clear the air, revealing in an interview for a Hollywood Reporter podcast how he saw the ending.

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David Chase, creator and producer of the hit HBO series "The Sopranos," shown in a 2006 file photo.Diane Bondareff

“The scene I had in my mind was not that scene. Nor did I think of cutting to black,” Chase told THR. “I had a scene in which Tony comes back from a meeting in New York in his car. At the beginning of every show, he came from New York into New Jersey, and the last scene could be him coming from New Jersey back into New York for a meeting at which he was going to be killed.

“But I think I had this notion — I was driving on Ocean Park Boulevard near the airport and I saw a little restaurant,” Chase continued. “It was kind of like a shack that served breakfast. And for some reason I thought, ‘Tony should get it in a place like that.’ Why? I don’t know. That was, like, two years before.”

So it seems that Tony Soprano’s fate can now be put to rest: He dies after the sudden cut to black.

“I had no idea it would cause that much ... of an uproar,” Chase said in the interview. “What was annoying was how many people wanted to see Tony killed. They wanted to see him go face-down in linguini, you know? That bothered me. And I just thought, ‘God, you watched this guy for seven years and I know he’s a criminal. But don’t tell me you don’t love him in some way, don’t tell me you’re not on his side in some way. And now you want to see him killed? You want justice done? You’re a criminal after watching this s*** for seven years.’ That bothered me, yeah.”

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Elsewhere in the interview, Chase called it “a comfort” knowing that the HBO series, which ran for 86 episodes from 1999-2007, has hooked a new generation of viewers.

This undated image released by HBO shows the cast of the hit series, "The Sopranos," from left, Tony Sirico, Steven Van Zandt, James Gandolfini, Michael Imperioli and Vincent Pastore. The six-season show won 21 Emmys and became the first cable series ever to win the Emmy for outstanding drama series.Anthony Neste/Associated Press

“See, I didn’t think that ‘Sopranos’ would live on at all even after doing it and even after it got all these accolades because I thought, ‘In a couple of years the references won’t work, nobody will know what we’re talking about, the phones will be different, TVs will be different,’ “ he told THR. “That part of it is true — the technology is different — but apparently what it’s about still resonates with people. So I’m just delighted to see that. To think that you’re really reaching a generation 20 years later is astounding.”

Chase also touched on his family’s influence on characters in the show. Chase’s mother, for example, was the inspiration behind Tony’s mother, Livia. Chase’s paternal grandmother, Teresa Melfi, was inspiration behind Tony’s therapist, Jennifer Melfi. And the name “Tony Soprano,” was inspired by a cousin of a friend of Chase’s: Toby Soprano.

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It’s fitting that viewers are getting a sense of closure on the heels of the recent premiere of “The Many Saints of Newark,” where fans learned about Tony’s origins. In the interview, Chase said he’d intended to direct the film, but family health issues prevented him from doing so.

“I didn’t like the movie,” Chase revealed in the interview. He also disclosed that outside of “The Sopranos,” which is widely regarded as one of the greatest TV shows of all time, his favorite is “The Twilight Zone.”

As far as upcoming projects go, Chase told THR that WarnerMedia — with whom Chase just signed a five-year first-look deal — wants Chase to do another “Sopranos” series, covering the period from when the movie ends until the original series begins. But Chase admitted, “I’m not that anxious to do it.”

Another “Sopranos” movie is more along the lines of what Chase has in mind.

“I have an idea for that that I’d like to do,” he said. “But I don’t think they want that.”

Listen to the full interview



Brittany Bowker can be reached at brittany.bowker@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @brittbowker.