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Still scratching your head over The Sopranos’ enigmatic final curtain? To help you make sense of it – and to look back over its eight years – we talk to Frank Vincent, aka wiseguy Phil Leotardo.
Paul Nolan, 01 Aug 2007
Aside from its massive critical acclaim, in commercial terms, The Sopranos was also – if you’ll pardon the pun – a big hit. To what does Frank attribute the series’ huge success?
“Well, the genre has always been successful in this country,” he says. “From the beginning of movies to now, it’s worked. At the very start, you had the Bugsy Siegels and the Al Capones, and the American gangster movies with actors like James Cagney. So the genre has a big appeal. You’re talking about gangsters and a different way of life. These guys had money, women, expensive clothes – they had all the things that Americans want, and they didn’t have to go to work. I mean, they worked, but in a different way. So I guess a guy who’s doing a nine-to-five job looks at that and says, ‘Jeez, that’s really paradise’.”
“And to this day, I find women approach me in a certain way. I was out at dinner with my wife last night, and a woman came right up to the table. It was all, ‘Can I have a picture with you?’ and so on. They think it’s pretty sexy to be a gangster, you know? It’s interesting how that works. People are attracted to that.”
An important factor in The Sopranos storylines was that Tony always had an antagonist. This role has been filled in the past by characters like Richie Aprile and Ralph Cifaretto (unforgettably played by Joe Pantoliano), but in season six Tony’s chief nemesis was Phil Leotardo. How did Frank feel about his character’s increased prominence in the final season?
“It was fun,” he remarks. “They’d phased Johnny out with the wedding and everything, so I guess they just had to bring in someone new to keep the interest going. There’s no way of knowing how David thinks, but I know that he has it all planned out. People were hooking onto Phil, and as it developed he became more prominent. Obviously he had to, to bring it to a head.”
In typical Sopranos style, there was a dark comedic twist to Phil’s death. After being executed at a Raceway gas station, Phil’s SUV (with his granddaughters still inside) rolled forward and crushed his skull, prompting one startled witness to yell “Oh shit!” and another to spontaneously vomit.