Who's Gonna Get Whacked?

<B>Bob Simon</B> Talks To 'Sopranos' Creator And Cast

When it comes to "The Sopranos," everyone knows that on television, the boss of the mob is a swaggering Italian-American named Tony Soprano.

But the real Godfather, the guy who created the show, is a modest Italian-American writer and producer named David Chase.

When "The Sopranos" made its debut on HBO in 1999, critics hailed the show as a great work of art, and Chase as a genius. Viewers loved it, too.

But now, the end is near. Chase and his crew recently began shooting the sixth and final season, which won't air until next spring. Chase is no mobster; he doesn't have a record. But, as reports, there's a lot of him in "The Sopranos."

Take, for example, his mother. "My mother was sort of the model for Livia Soprano," says Chase.

Livia Soprano, Tony's mother on the show, and a nasty piece of work, was played by the late Nancy Marchand. Once, Livia ordered a mob hit on her son.

"Livia tries to kill Tony - did your mother?" asks Simon.

"No, my mother never tried to kill me," says Chase.

"I heard one story that she went at you with a fork once?" asks Simon.

"Yeah, she was trying, she was threatening to poke my eye with a fork," says Chase, laughing. "But, she was hysterical."

Chase found the fork attack so unforgettable, he used it in the show, when Tony flashes back to his childhood. But Tony eventually grows up and takes his revenge: He commits his mother to an old-age home, but not without a fight.

"The Sopranos" always opens with Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, behind the wheel leaving the Big Apple behind for his luxurious home in the Jersey suburbs. Besides being a son and a gangster, Tony's a husband, a father, a philanderer, a thief, and a murderer. What's not to love?

"He's so ridiculous. He really is. He's so deluded, self-deluded and he lies to everyone, most of all to himself," says Chase. "And he thinks that he tries very hard but he doesn't really. He just seems lost."

Tony is lost and trying to find himself in analysis. But he's also trying to seduce his analyst, Dr. Melfi, played by Lorraine Bracco.

You don't say "don't" to Tony Soprano easily, and Melfi knows it. Tony's constantly on the verge of exploding. Tony's depressed. He takes Prozac. And Gandolfini, the actor, exudes all that violence and rage. Chase saw that in him, and exploited it.

"I have a little bit of a temper but it's, you know, a useless temper," says Gandolfini. "It doesn't accomplish anything generally. It's just a lot of ranting and raving and nothing. So David probably saw that and put it into the character. You know all writers are vampires. And they'll look around and they watch you when you're not even thinking they're watching you, and they'll slip stuff in."

Chase, the vampire, is 59, and works out of a movie studio in Queens. He and his writers, easily some of the best vampires in the business, are developing plotlines for the last 13 episodes of the last season.
There's only one more season, but still so many issues to resolve.

Does Tony survive, or does Chase whack him in the last episode? And what about Carmela, Tony's wife, played by Edie Falco? After splitting up with Tony, Carmela took him back. But will they stay reconciled?

Chase confessed to 60 Minutes Wednesday that Carmela's not easy: "Carmela's been difficult. It's been a difficult character because you can get to a thing with her where, where she's just bitching, she's just complaining. And she's no fun. And she's just a nag. But Carmela's trapped and so she's always reactive as opposed to proactive. So, Carmela's a hard character to write."

When Simon told Falco that, she said, "Hmmm….That's surprising to me."

60 Minutes Wednesday met Falco at her favorite cafe near her home in Lower Manhattan. Over a cappuccino, Simon asked her what it's like working for Chase.

"I think for me, it's sort of a father thing, because he actually reminds me a great deal of my dad in a lot of different ways," says Falco.

What's so special about Chase?

"He's a hell of a lot smarter than 99 percent of the people that I've worked with," says Gandolfini. "And he's a hell of a lot smarter than me. So I know when to shut up and listen."

"He's very hard on himself and writing these things, I think, he puts himself through a lot," says Falco. "And I know he oversees every step of the production - pre, during and post. And it really costs him."