‘Sopranos’ Cast Reunites at Tribeca Festival for ‘Wise Guy’ Doc as Michael Imperioli Says ‘The Show Was Way Better Than I Remembered’

The cast and creatives behind “The Sopranos” reunited at Tribeca Festival Thursday night in celebration of the series’ 25th anniversary.

They gathered for the premiere of Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary, “Wise Guy: David Chase and the Sopranos,” which played to a packed audience at the Beacon Theatre on the Upper West Side of Manhattan Thursday night. The two-hour-and-40-minute documentary begins with “The Sopranos” opening credit sequence driving into New Jersey. This time, the show’s creator and showrunner David Chase sits in the passenger seat. Throughout the documentary, Chase is interviewed by Gibney in a recreated set of Dr. Melfi’s psychiatrist office. Chase shares stories of growing up in New Jersey in an Italian American family and how his own experiences with his mother influenced the show.

More from Variety

Chase explained that he first pitched “The Sopranos” as a feature film, but HBO was the only party interested in picking it up. Of course, the show would go on to run for seven seasons and became one of the most successful series in the history of television. “This is the GOAT of TV series,” Gibney said.

“I was so lucky to work with these guys, and I really saw today what a family this is,” Chase said about reuniting with the cast. “If it wasn’t for the word ‘fuck,’ where would we be?”

The audition tapes in the documentary are a real behind-the-scenes treat for any “Sopranos” fan. Discussing the casting process, Gibney asked Chase if his eyes “must have lit up” when finding James Gandolfini to play Tony. Chase replied, “It didn’t really happen that way.”

“It wasn’t exactly like that, because [Gandolfini] didn’t want to do it, and he didn’t come to auditions and it was tough,” Chase continued. “Steven Van Zandt had read for the part, and I was sitting in the room with a rock and roll star. I was like, ‘Holy crap,’ and not only that — he had gone to my hometown to get clothes where John Gotti got his mob clothes and he wore that to the audition, and I thought ‘This is the guy,’ but then it didn’t work out that way.

Gibney asked Edie Falco about the hardest part of playing Tony’s wife, Carmela Soprano. “I didn’t think it was hard,” Falco said. “Very early on, Jim and I fell into this relationship that felt like we had already put in the 20 years previous, that Tony and Carmela had. So even the hard stuff was easy.”

Matthew Weiner, the creator and showrunner of “Mad Men,” said he wrote the pilot for “Mad Men” before he joined “The Sopranos” as a writer, and the experience he had working under Chase changed his approach on “Mad Men.”

“There were seven years between writing the pilot and writing the second episode, and in four and a half of those years, I was on ‘The Sopranos,'” Weiner said. “I’m still starstruck, I couldn’t believe it. I joined [‘The Sopranos’] in Season 5. It was the hugest thing in the entire universe, [the cast] didn’t even know how big it was anymore, and [Chase] was so miserable that I literally was a cheerleader. I was like, ‘You know, everybody loves this.'”

Michael Imperioli arrived at the panel fashionably late and was welcomed with cheers from the audience. “The show was way better than I remembered,” he said. “With some distance, how thorough a production it was on every level of the filmmaking … it’s just remarkable, how fantastic it is and how well it holds up over time.”

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.