David Chase smiles when he notes that “we didn’t pay retail” for the 60s rock classics — including songs by the Beatles and Rolling Stones — that appear in his first feature film, “Not Fade Away.”
And the screenwriter, director and “The Sopranos” creator is quick to give all credit for that to Steven Van Zandt, the E Street Band guitarist and “Sopranos” cast member who was both executive producer and music coordinator for the film.
“That wasn’t really me. That was Stevie,” Chase tells Billboard. “He would tell you he has a few friends who are Beatles, and he has connections with the Rolling Stones Publisher at that time (ABKCO). He has these contacts and he was able to put them to use and negotiate some good deals for us.” It also helped the film’s cause, Chase says, that he was more interested in “lesser-known album tracks” than the groups’ big hits. And part of the deal between ABKCO and the Beatles Apple Corp. was what Chase calls “a favored nation status so they would both get exactly the same (licensing rate) so there’d be no quibbling about any of that stuff. We kind of bought them in quantity, five from them and five from them, so we got the songs at a reduced rate.”
“I love the music of that period, on every level,” Chase adds. “I think it’s great movie music. It’s fun for me to listen to. It’s fun for me to work with. I had a great time on ‘The Sopranos’ — we had a music budget — spotting music for that, and I wanted to continue that part of the experience. I wanted to repeat that experience.”
The film and its soundtrack — a digital album released this week — also features songs by the Rascals, the Small Faces, the Left Banke, the Moody Blues, Bob Dylan and the Sex Pistols. Chase says he was disappointed he couldn’t obtain licenses from The Who, though he says that “I think we probably could have done that, but we were running out of time. And, of course, the Hendrix estate doesn’t license anything to anybody.”
“Not Fade Away,” some of which is drawn from Chase’s own experiences as an aspiring musician growing up in New Jersey, is a coming of age story set to music and the experiences of a young band during the transition from the mid to late 60s. Van Zandt schooled the young cast — which sang six songs on the soundtrack as the Twilight Zones (with music played by Van Zandt and E Street bandmates Garry Tallent and Max Weinberg) — in rock ‘n’ roll history and culture before filming began, though Chase says the actors weren’t completely transported into 60s gestalt.
“It was very hard to get them to stop saying ‘dude,’ ” he recalls with a laugh. “The line could’ve been, ‘What did she say?’ and it would come out, ‘Dude, what did she say?’ Any time it happened we’d have to cut. ‘What?~!’ You said ‘dude.’ ‘ ‘I did?’ ‘Yeah, you said ‘dude.’ ‘ ‘Oh. I’m sorry…’ “
“Not Fade Away” also features James Ganolfini, Chase’s lead actor in “The Sopranos,” as the father of main character Douglas (John Magaro). Chase acknowledges that he didn’t initially plan to have Gandolfini in the film but that thinking of him in the role “made everything fall into place, not only the scenes with the dad but also the whole thing.” But the casting, of course, only fuels more speculation about a film version of “The Sopranos.”
“Y’know, it’s a strange thing,” Chase says with a sigh. “I don’t think there ever will be a ‘Sopranos’ film. I have no interest in doing one. No one’s working on one now. We don’t have elves toiling away in the toy shop working on it, and I don’t have an idea for it. At the same time, if I did get an idea for it, I might become interested. But every time I say that, what appears in the press is ‘Chase raises possibility of ‘Sopranos’ movie, which is not the case. I don’t raise anything.”
“Not Fade Away” opens Friday [Dec. 21] in New York and Hollywood and wide on Jan. 4.