David Chase

David Chase

Chase at the US Embassy in Dublin, January 2015
Born (1945-08-22) August 22, 1945
Mount Vernon, New York, U.S.
Alma mater Stanford University; New York University
Occupation Screenwriter, director, producer
Years active 1974–present
Spouse(s) Denise Kelly (1 child, Michele DeCesare

David Chase[1][2] (born August 22, 1945) is an American writer, director and television producer. Chase has worked in television for 40 years; he has produced and written for such shows as The Rockford Files, I'll Fly Away, and Northern Exposure. He has created two original series; the first, Almost Grown, aired for 10 episodes in 1988 and 1989. Chase is best known for his second original series, the influential and critically acclaimed HBO drama The Sopranos, which aired for six seasons between 1999 and 2007. A prominent figure in American television, Chase has won seven Emmy Awards.

Early life and education

Chase was born into a working class Italian American[3] family in Mount Vernon, New York. An only child, Chase grew up in a small garden apartment in Clifton, New Jersey[4] and in North Caldwell.[5] Chase has stated that as a child he had many problems with his parents, who he feels were overbearing.[4] He grew up watching matinée crime films and was well known as a creative storyteller during his childhood.[6] Chase claims his father was an angry man who belittled him constantly as a child and his mother was a "passive-aggressive drama queen" and a "nervous woman who dominated any situation she was in by being so needy and always on the verge of hysteria. You walked on eggshells." One of his characters on the HBO original series The Sopranos, Livia Soprano, is based on his mother. Chase struggled with panic attacks and severe depression as a teenager, something he still deals with today. He graduated from high school in 1964 and attended Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where his depression worsened. "I slept 18 hours a day," Chase later stated. He described his problems as "what's come to be known as normal, nagging, clinical depression. It was awful."[4] He also worked as a drummer during this period, and held aspirations of being a professional musician.[6] After two years, he transferred to New York University, where he chose to pursue a career in film, a decision that was not well received by his parents. He went on to attend Stanford University's School of Film.


Before creating and developing The Sopranos, Chase started in Hollywood as a story editor for Kolchak: The Night Stalker and then produced episodes of The Rockford Files and Northern Exposure, among other series. He also worked as a writer of nineteen episodes while on The Rockford Files—a show which he worked on in various capacities for more than four years.[4] He won several Emmy awards, including one for a television movie, Off the Minnesota Strip, the story of a runaway he scripted in 1980.[4] After The Rockford Files run ended the same year, Chase worked in numerous television jobs until he wound up in charge of Northern Exposure in 1993.[4] Chase worked in relative anonymity before The Sopranos debuted.[4] Inspired as a youth by the film The Public Enemy,[6] Chase created the critically and commercially successful show by drawing heavily on his own personal life; the character of Livia Soprano is modelled after his own mother.[7] In a recent interview, Chase stated that he experienced frustration for a long period with being unable to break out of the TV genre and into film over this time.[4] In 2000, he was the recipient of the Austin Film Festival's Outstanding Television Writer Award. In 2005, Chase received a Special Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his entire body of work.

His first original created series was Almost Grown in 1988, with Eve Gordon and Timothy Daly.[8] Although the one-hour series was well received by critics,[9] only 10 episodes aired from November 1988 to February 1989.[10]

The Sopranos

Thirty episodes of The Sopranos are explicitly credited to Chase; however, as the show's creator, showrunner, and head writer, he had a major role in all the scripts, including producing and touching up each script's final draft.[11] He also directed the pilot episode and the series finale (both of which he also wrote). Of the controversial final scene of the series finale, Chase said, "I have no interest in explaining, defending, reinterpreting, or adding to what is there."[12]

Not Fade Away

Not Fade Away (2012), Chase's feature film debut, was released on December 21, 2012. It centers on the lead singer of a teenage rock 'n' roll band (played by John Magaro) in 1960s New Jersey.[13][14] Described as "a music-driven coming-of-age story," the film reunites Chase with James Gandolfini (former star of Sopranos), who co-stars as Magaro's father.[13] Other cast members include Bella Heathcote, Christopher McDonald, Molly Price, Lisa Lampanelli, Jack Huston and Brad Garrett. Chase himself has described the film as about "a post-war, post-Depression-era parent who has given his kid every advantage that he didn't have growing up, but now can't help feeling jealous of the liberated, more adventurous destiny his son is able to enjoy." Another former Sopranos cast member, Steven Van Zandt, served as music supervisor and executive producer.[15]

Upcoming projects

A Ribbon of Dreams

David Chase is currently developing A Ribbon of Dreams, a mini-series for HBO. According to an HBO press release, the series' pilot will "begin in 1913 and follow two men, one a college-educated mechanical engineer, the other a cowboy with a violent past, who form an unlikely producing partnership and together become pioneers and then powers for a time in motion pictures." Specifically, the two men will "begin as employees of D.W. Griffith, and then cross career paths with John Ford, John Wayne, Raoul Walsh, Bette Davis, Billy Wilder and others who gave shape to Hollywood as it grew from the age of rough-hewn silent Westerns, to the golden era of talkies and the studio system, to the auteur movement, to television, and finally to the present day." As of 2016, Chase is still developing the miniseries for HBO.[16][17]

Personal life

After graduating from NYU in 1968 Chase moved to California and married his high school sweetheart Denise Kelly.[4] He is the father of actress Michele DeCesare who appeared in six Sopranos episodes as Hunter Scangarelo.[18] While working in the industry Chase stated he "loathed and despised" television shows, watching only The Sopranos and movies,[19] such as Mildred Pierce, an example of films which he stated "in two hours, two hours and a half, told us everything we needed to know about every character in it". However, in recent interviews, he has taken back this comment, saying he watches former Sopranos writers and producers Terence Winter and Matthew Weiner's respective series Boardwalk Empire and Mad Men. He said that he made those comments in part because he had been working within the confines of 1990's network television.[20][21]


Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1971 The Bold Ones: The Lawyers Yes Episode: "In Defense of Ellen McKay"
1974 The Magician Yes 7 episodes
1974–1975 Kolchak: The Night Stalker Yes 8 episodes
1975–1976 Switch Yes 6 episodes
1976–1980 The Rockford Files Yes Yes Wrote 20 episodes
1980 The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo Story Episode: "Perkins Bombs Out"
1980 Off the Minnesota Strip Yes Yes Television film
1982 Moonlight Yes Executive Television film
1986 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Yes Yes Episode: "Enough Rope for Two"
1988–1989 Almost Grown Yes Executive Also co-creator
1991–1992 I'll Fly Away Yes Yes Executive
1994 Northern Exposure Story Executive
1996 The Rockford Files: If the Frame Fits... Supervising Television film
1996 The Rockford Files: Godfather Knows Best Yes Supervising Television film
1996 The Rockford Files: Friends and Foul Play Supervising Television film
1996 The Rockford Files: Punishment and Crime Yes Yes Supervising Television film
1999–2007 The Sopranos Yes Yes Executive Also creator
Year Title Director Writer Producer Notes
1972 Grave of the Vampire Yes Based on his novel The Still Life
2012 Not Fade Away Yes Yes Yes

Awards and recognition


  1. Says his name was not David DeCesare at birth in this interview: http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/david-chase#
  2. "David Chase’s Not Fade Away", Oct 5, 2012, Time magazine
  3. Boss of Bosses
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Peter Biskend. "An American Family" Vanity Fair , April 2007, accessed May 6, 2007.
  5. DeCaro, Frank. " No Longer the Punch-Line State; Lauryn Hill, the Sopranos and others are unapologetic New Jerseyans.", The New York Times, April 4, 1999."Growing up in Clifton and North Caldwell, Mr. Chase said, New Jersey seemed "very exciting and very mysterious, not dull and predictable as many New Yorkers like to believe."
  6. 1 2 3 David Chase: Creator, HBO.com, accessed May 6, 2007.
  7. Robin Dougherty (January 20, 1999). "Chasing TV". Archived from the original on October 11, 1999. Retrieved September 7, 2013.
  8. Baker, Kathryn. (November 23, 1988) Wichita Eagle. "Almost Grown: tells story of growing up. Section:Lifestyle; Page 9A.
  9. Bark, Ed. (October 2, 1988) Dallas Morning News A critic picks the season's top ten. Section: Arts & Entertainment; page 1C.
  10. Vero Beach Press Journal (November 12, 2000) Pipline. Section: TV Journal; Page 32.
  11. Wolk, Josh (April 6, 2007). "Burying the Sopranos". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 19, 2007. [Chase] oversees everything, from writing the final polish on all scripts to supervising the editing of each episode.
  12. Alan Sepinwall (June 11, 2007). "David Chase speaks". The Star-Ledger.
  13. 1 2 McNary, Dave (January 24, 2011). "Gandolfini, Chase reconnect at 'Twylight' ". Variety.com. Reed Business Information. Retrieved February 1, 2011. Gandolfini's on board to portray the father of a teen in a rock band, set in 1960s suburbia. John Magaro will play his son. ... Chase, creator of 'The Sopranos,' signed on in 2008 to write, direct and produce the feature.
  14. Jay A. Fernandez (March 8, 2010). "'Sopranos' creator to direct coming-of-age film". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 13, 2010.
  15. "Brad Garrett Moves To David Chase's Musical Movie". NextMovie. February 3, 2011. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  16. Michael Schneider (March 16, 2009). "David Chase cuts 'Ribbon' at HBO". Variety. Retrieved April 13, 2010.
  17. Peter Sciretta (March 16, 2009). "David Chase Returns with a Miniseries About The Birth of Cinema". /Film. Retrieved April 13, 2010.
  18. Oxfeld, Jesse. "Stanford Magazine > September/October 2002 > Feature Story > Family Man". Stanfordalumni.org. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  19. Pearson, Roberta (2011). "Cult Television as Digital Television's Cutting Edge". In Bennett, James; Strange, Niki. Television as Digital Media. Duke University Press. p. 113. ISBN 0-8223-4910-8.
  20. Marlow, Stern. "thedailybeast > September 2014> Feature Entertainment>". thedailybeast.com. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  21. Collins, Andrew (May 21, 2013). "The Week in TV: Game of Thrones, Mad Men and The Fall – video". The Guardian. Retrieved May 21, 2013.

External links

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