The Road From Nowhere

David Chase was once some Italian-American kid from New Jersey playing drums and bass in a mediocre rock group in the mid-’60s. The band went nowhere.


David Chase, right, and James Gandolfini, who stars in Chase’s film “Not Fade Away,” confer on the set of “The Sopranos.”

David Chase grew up relishing suspense and noir films. After an attempt at rock ’n’ roll success failed, he found his entry into television through his talent as a writer on “The Rockford Files,” “Northern Exposure” and other shows. When he came up with an idea for a show involving a New Jersey mobster who had a troubled relationship with his mother, Fox developed the show but let it go prior to shooting. At HBO, that idea became “The Sopranos,” a groundbreaking blockbuster that won numerous awards.

But in mid-December that failed rocker spoke to LMU’s School of Film and Television students about “Not Fade Away,” his new film about a so-so band trying to make it as rock music exploded across America some 50 years ago.

A coming-of-age story about a teenager looking for love and rock ’n’ roll superstardom, “Not Fade Away” draws on Chase’s experiences in a band with no future. American audiences are used to success stories, perhaps too much, he said. “For all those guys who started a band and didn’t make it, I wanted to make a movie for them.”

Chase had thought about making the film for two decades. But he turned to it after “The Sopranos” run was over because, with industry politics in mind, he knew his tough-sell movie idea would probably be green-lighted. “I knew I had a lot of capital,” he said.

Raised on the era’s music, Chase went against grain with his sound-track and footage. He worked with “Little” Steven Van Zandt, who is a guitarist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and who played Silvio Dante in “The Sopranos.” They avoided using the era’s biggest hits that have filled plenty of ’60s films. And there’s no footage of the 1969 Woodstock music festival or Vietnam War protests.

“Many people did not have long hair in the ’60s,” Chase explained. “Only 500,000 people went to Woodstock — not everybody — and many people didn’t go to protests. I wanted this to be about the ‘many.’”

Chase gave students parting advice about digging deep into their imaginations: “Just live inside your head. That’s not good for relationships or other things in life, but it’s good for creative work.”

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