We all just loved Silvio Dante for his grumpy looks, Al Pacino mimicry, and his loyalty to Tony Soprano. But did you know that the actor who played him, Steven Van Zandt, almost landed the role of Tony for himself? It’s true, and here’s what happened!
Steven Van Zandt never acted before The Sopranos!
It’s baffling to know that Van Zandt never acted a single day before The Sopranos. He was a rock star, who was a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E-street band and his personal friend. Moreover, he had several solo records too. The only reason he got a role in the show was that the creator David Chase saw Van Zandt perform at The Rascals’ Hall of Fame induction. As soon as Chase saw him, he offered him the lead role of Tony Soprano! Stevie was overwhelmed, and turned down the role, saying he was not an actor. In response, David Chase told him:
You are, you just don’t know it yet
Stevie obliged, but HBO was having none of it. However, Chase was determined to keep Steven Van Zandt in the show. And so, he created the character of Silvio Dante just for his sake. He confirmed this in the following interview:
Of course, that meant Chase still had a vacancy for Tony Soprano. And that’s where James Gandolfini stepped in.
James Gandolfini landed the part!
After Steven Van Zandt was confirmed for Silvio, Chase oversaw auditions for Tony. But, James Gandolfini wasn’t the only one being considered. Michael Rispoli was also auditioned for the role. And if you don’t know, Rispoli is the actor who played Jackie Aprile Sr. in The Sopranos!
I think it’s safe to say that HBO’s refusal to hire an inexperienced actor as the lead role paid off. In the end, Silvio Dante and Tony Soprano were played perfectly by Van Zandt and Gandolfini. Van Zandt was a natural in Silvio’s role and it was probably because he was playing himself rather than trying to be someone else. You can see Silvio even when he was on stage on The Rascal’s induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And after The Sopranos, he said so himself that once you do a scene with James Gandolfini, you walk away as a better actor.