before Succession It took over the world, and it was HBO’s biggest hitter the sopranos. Beginning in 1999, the series ran for six seasons, amassing 86 episodes and 21 Emmy Awards in its eight years on the air. The unique take on the series finds its central character, Tony Soprano, a mafia boss from New Jersey, searching for therapy after facing personal and professional problems. By adding treatment to the mafia genre, where it often doesn’t belong, the show offers an interesting view into Tony’s life. It balances dark humor, drama, and graphic violence perfectly to create a show that grips while also navigating below the surface level of entertainment.

Given that Tony is the protagonist the sopranosthe show would be significantly different if another actor was chosen in place James Gandolfini, but he wasn’t always the frontrunner for the role. Even discounting his rivals’ auditions, Gandolfini almost got his way when it came to enjoying the role. He walked out of his first audition in the middle of his performance after becoming frustrated with himself, but luckily he was able to meet the casting directors again to get the role. Learn how we came close to having another actor at the helm the sopranos Great because it could have had such an impact on the outcome of the show as a whole. Here are five other actors who almost sought out Gandolfini’s place.

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5 Anthony LaPaglia


First choice for Tony Khalek the sopranosDavid Chase was an Australian actor, Anthony LaPaglia. He is best known for his role as Jack Malone without a trace, a long-running crime drama. Upon receiving the script for the show’s pilot, LaPaglia was intrigued and wanted to meet Chase. At first, they agreed to go ahead with the project, but LaPaglia told the Santa Monica Mirror that he “had an idea for the character that was different than I did.” [Chase] It was,” and he chose to do a play that was offered to him instead.

Chase later revealed that LaPaglia was an option for a movie within the show’s plot that didn’t end up coming through either. With LaPaglia wanting to play Tony in an atypical way for a mob boss, the show was sure to have a different feel to it.

Related: The Sopranos: Every Season, Ranked

4 Ray Liotta

Ray Liotta in Goodfellas
Warner Bros.

Ray Liottabest known for his central role as Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese Good guysIt is widely understood that Tony was offered the role in it the sopranos. However, this is actually more of a misunderstanding. The fact is that he was offered a role in the series – the role of Ralph Cifaretto, which went to Joe Pantoliano – but he refused it, fearing to repeat the role of the mafia again. Liotta was also shooting HannibalSo the timing wasn’t right.

Given Liotta’s experience in a mafia production and the (true) rumors that he’s been offered a role, it’s logical that people would assume the role in question is Tony Soprano. Interestingly enough, Liotta eventually got an important role in Many saints in newark, which follows teen Tony Soprano, played by Gandolfini’s son, Michael Gandolfini. David Chase co-wrote this movie, so he’s clearly paying attention to actors who don’t end up in the roles offered to them, with those in mind for the future.

3 John Ventimiglia

John Ventimiglia in The Sopranos

An actor who didn’t end up playing Tony but still played a role in it the sopranos He is John Ventimiglia. He auditioned for both Tony Soprano and Paulie and the Golownuts, and while he wasn’t a perfect fit for either of those characters, the producers clearly loved him because he ended up as Artie Bucco. This character is a childhood friend of Tony’s and a restaurant owner who appears throughout the entire series.

Coincidentally, Tony wasn’t the first character Gandolfini won over Ventimiglia. Both actors made it quite far in the audition process for juror which starred Alec Baldwin, Demi Moore, and Anne Hechey, but at the last hurdle, Gandolfini got the role. Later, Ventimiglia was interested in joining the Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire But again, Gandolfini defeated him.

Related: 10 Great Movies And Shows Featuring The Sopranos

2 Michael Rispoli

Michael Rispoli in The Sopranos

He was one of the three finalists to play Tony Soprano Michael Rispoli. in an episode of the podcast speaking soprano, hosted by co-stars Michael Imperioli and Steve Chiripa, Rispoli opened up about the audition experience. He revealed that during the process, his manager was constantly receiving changing feedback about who was a favorite between Rispoli and Gandolfini.

In the end, they land with Gandolfini, but Rispoli finds it hard to resist, as does Ventimiglia, who says that Gandolfini is too nice to hold a grudge against. However, losing the role of Tony wasn’t the end of Rispoli’s journey with him the sopranoslater cast as Jackie Aprile, who primarily appears in the first season of the show.

1 Stephen Van Zandt

Steven Van Zandt in The Sopranos

The other component of the final three contenders was Stephen Van Zandtwho, at this point, had no professional acting experience. Before that the sopranosVan Zandt is best known for playing guitar in Bruce Springsteen’s band. In an interview with, Van Zandt revealed that he was in the running because Chase “wanted extraordinary new faces,” but his lack of experience ended up being the reason he didn’t get the role.

However, he had a hand in choosing Gandolfini. After seeing him waiting for an audition, he told the casting director that Gandolfini was great in it True romance He was recommended for the part. Van Zandt’s approach to Tony was more humorous than Gandolfini’s layered approach and he could have made a very different show. Despite the fact that Van Zandt didn’t end up playing Tony himself, he did end up playing Tony’s right-hand man, Silvio Dante, which is an important role for someone who had never acted before.


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