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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
“It absolutely did,” agrees Frank. “In this country, everyone had the same comment, ‘My television broke’, because of the blackout. But if you remember, in the first episode, Tony said to Bobby Bacala in the boat, ‘When it happens, everything goes black’. The show ended that way, so the assumption was that one of the people in the diner killed Tony. Or maybe he lived; from what I understand, David left it to your individual imagination as to how it would end. And most people complained about the ending, but after they saw it again, they said it was brilliant.
“I was aware of how it was going to end in the text, but I wasn’t aware of how it was going to end in the editing; I didn’t know he had that up his sleeve. We knew the family was going to be sitting in the diner, that AJ was healthy and Tony was proud of him, and that Meadow was trying to park the car. And we knew there was tension, because there were people walking in and out and Meadow got a bit panicky in the car – all that was written. But the editing, nobody knew about that. I loved the ending, I thought it was great.”
I conclude by asking Frank about his famous scene in Goodfellas, in which his character, Billy Batts, makes the fatal error of advising Tommy DeVito (played by Joe Pesci) to “go home and get your fuckin’ shinebox.” What are his memories of shooting the scene?
“At that time in my life, I had just had back surgery,” he recalls. “It was difficult to do all the stuff on the floor, so we had my stuntman, Peter Bucossi, stand in for me, and he subsequently became stunt co-ordinator on The Sopranos. Billy Batts has become so popular that on my website I have “Go home and get your shinebox” t-shirts and mugs. My children run the site and we sell more t-shirts than I could ever have imagined. Batts became an icon because we all seem to work so well together in that scene.
“You see, Joe and I used to play music and do comedy together prior to working in film. Someone came to see us perform and offered us a role in a little movie, then Martin Scorsese put us Raging Bull, then from that obviously came Goodfellas. So Joe and I have a very strong and intimate relationship, and that intimacy came out in that film, when he came over to me going, ‘Don’t go bustin’ my balls.’ We were very loose in that scene, and it just connected and worked. And by the way, when I said, ‘Get those Irish hoodlums a drink,’ that was an ad-lib!”