Tony Sirico and James Gandolfini, <EM>The Sopranos</EM> Tony Sirico and James Gandolfini, The Sopranos

After The Sopranos ended — in a flurry of suspicion and onion rings — rumors started flying: Had creator David Chase kept Tony breathing for a Sopranos movie? ("I never say never," Chase told the Newark Star-Ledger. "An idea could pop into my head where I would go, ‘Wow, that would make a great movie,' but I doubt it.")

"It could make a good feature," says director Barry Sonnenfeld, who adapted two beloved TV series, The Addams Family ("No one complained," he says), and Wild Wild West ("Which, let's just say, was problematic"). "But the question is, will the studio that makes the movie replace all the actors? Sure, you've got Jim Gandolfini. But what if [Tom] Hanks wants to play the role?"

Casting West brought Sonnenfeld headaches of his own. "I had a black guy — Will Smith — playing Jim West," he recalls. "And Robert Conrad hated it, and sort of threatened to do physical violence to me. Which is not so hard. I mean, please."

The X-Files
creator Chris Carter — the last producer to drive his own series down the feature highway — doesn't believe a Sopranos movie will happen. "I can't imagine that Chase will do it. The series ended for me so perfectly, I don't want it to go on. I'm happy to think of Tony Soprano in that final frame, in that final moment." Making the X-Files movie left Carter with an appreciation of the differences between the two mediums. "Anyone who's considering going from the small screen to the big screen should think twice. The urge is to try to outdo yourself, to do something bigger than you've done. But I don't presume to give David Chase advice. I think he can do no wrong. But I can tell you I'll be there on opening night to see that movie." (And what's Carter up to now? He says he's signed up series stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson for a second X-Files movie.)

Longtime Variety editor Peter Bart is more optimistic: "I think it'd be a real winner; people are really interested in the characters. But let's put it this way: I wouldn't want to be the producer who tries to talk Gandolfini into a deal. Because I think his demands would be... somewhat high." For Bart, the film is a natural since, from the beginning, The Sopranos would have worked at either screen size. "[Paramount chief and Sopranos producer] Brad Grey told me the TV show came out of the initial conversation he had with David Chase, where he said, ‘Well, do you think this is a TV series or The Godfather?"

The famous finale certainly left the movie door wide open and swinging. "I'm sure David Chase is a man of great integrity," Bart notes, "but to those of us in the business, it looked like someone writing a TV series, an ending, as a business decision. You know the old story: ‘If you want a sequel, you don't kill off your character.'" For the transition, Bart spots two essentials: More story ("Something that really happened in the third act would help") and no delays (such as the time lapse that threatens to one day deliver us "a geriatric Sex and the City").

That said, Bart has a suggestion for The Sopranos' producer. "Before he does it, I'd like David Chase to sit down and have a meeting with Francis Coppola." The helmer of the Godfather movies is "a better storyteller, I think, than David Chase, so I think they'd talk about the story. I think Coppola would go through all the agonies he had making the three Godfathers, and I think David Chase would like to hear about those agonies."

Of course, as Tony Soprano knows, wrapped in every plan you'll always find a problem. Chase shouldn't schedule that meeting any time soon. A spokesman for the Godfather director explains, "Francis Coppola has never seen The Sopranos."

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