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David Chase Talks the ’60s, the Stones and <i>Not Fade Away</i>

How do you follow up a pop culture phenomenon like The Sopranos? Well, if you're David Chase, you take a healthy chunk of time off and then return with a small, intimate and semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story about a '60s New Jersey teenager (John Magaro) who is inspired by the British Invasion to start his own rock outfit. Unfortunately, fame and fortune prove elusive as he contends with inter-band tension (especially with the jealous lead singer, played by Jack Huston), as well as an angry father (James Gandolfini). On the other hand, he does win the heart of his high school crush (Bella Heathcote), so a career in music does come with some benefits. As strong as Chase's script and the performances by the young actors are, the real star of Not Fade Away has to be its incredible soundtrack (assembled with the aid of Chase's old Sopranos colleague Steven Van Zandt), which is packed with familiar '60s songs and a few deep cuts. On a recent press tour through New York, Not Fade Away's cast and crew discussed the process of bringing that era to life.

David Chase on the Origin of the Film
I always wanted to be in feature films -- I never wanted to be in television. I got to really enjoy my life in television once I got to HBO. But this is what I really wanted to do, make a movie. And I really loved this music and this era. Something happened to music then where it became art, under the hand of the Beatles and the Stones and Bob Dylan and people like that. Once the subject of rock 'n' roll changed from cars and peppy love songs to songs about death and mortality, this lightbulb went off over my head and I realized that rock music can deal with the big subjects. And I guess this particular story was partly a way to acknowledge the fact that my father had some inkling of who I was. Something in him understood my ambition.

James Gandolfini on Playing the Ultimate Just-Doesn't-Get-It-Dad
I based this on David's writing and a lot on my father. We didn't have this kind of relationship necessarily, but there were a lot of similarities. Basically, it's a little bit of an ode to my father and me being a pain in the ass son and now realizing it. But I realized it before he died, so that was good.

Steven Van Zandt on the Movie's Authenticity
We talked about this movie a long time ago, during the last couple seasons of The Sopranos. Obviously, David was very passionate about the subject matter and I knew it was going to be a bit autobiographical. From his use of music in The Sopranos, he's obviously a very musical guy. We had a lot of conversations about it; we're both kind of detail oriented and so in the end everything is very accurate in its detail, including Jimmy Gandolfini playing all of our fathers. It's a little hard to explain to people now, but in the '60s there was a thing called the generation gap and it really did exist. It was the only time in history, I think, where parents and their children were completely at odds with each other -- they did not relate to each other at all. It's hard to explain to people now how dramatic and traumatic that was. The film is very accurate in the way it shows how we embarrassed our parents. I also don't know anyone else besides David who would write a '60s movie and all the cataclysmic events that happened then are just background for the tunnel vision of this kid. And that is very, very accurate. I was there, and it was like "Yeah, civil rights is going on, cities are burning down, assassinations and Vietnam... but let's get the chords to the new Yardbirds record!"

The Young Actors on Playing '60s Teenagers
John Magaro: I listened to a lot of '60s music growing up. I thought we all grew up on that music, but I've talked to peers of mine and that's apparently not the case. David told me stories about how some of the kids who auditioned for the film would come in and say "Yay-gger and Richards" instead of "Jagger and Richard." So my own generation is horribly unaware of '60s music! But I was lucky, I guess because I was forced to listen to it and get used to it and that certainly helped. I love that music and I don't know how you couldn't love that music. It's what American music is and the good rock 'n' roll being made nowadays is influenced by that.
Bella Heathcote: People ask me what it was like playing a teen in that time and place and I went through a lot of the similar things as my character, even though I grew up in Australia [in the '90s]. Other than the accent, which was a huge fear of mine, it's all pretty much the same. I feel like people respond to the same things in the same way regardless of era or place. What I loved about the script was that David writes characters like people; even the small roles feel like three dimensional people to me -- just the way they react in situations feels so realistic.
Jack Huston: When I was growing up, this music wasn't just my parent's music -- it was my music, too. The Stones and The Beatles are among my first musical memories. Making this movie, it made me realize how exciting it must have been to have heard this music for the first time.

Steven Van Zandt on The Cast's Musical Boot Camp
I begged David to hire musicians who can act and, of course, he didn't. But he's a genius at casting and one thing you can't really cast is work ethic, which is where instinct really comes in. These guys had to learn in three months what took me three years. I'm not kidding. They spend five or six hours a day in my studio seven days a week for three full months. And learning how to play guitars is one thing -- drums is another. We could have faked it, but we didn't have to, because John really is playing the drums. It's amazing! My biggest concern of all was the singing, because I always have trouble with actors singing or pretending to sing. I never quite buy it. I knew if we faltered in any way with the band or the singers feeling real, the movie would fall apart. But that's really them singing. By the time the cameras rolled, they were a real band who could play. They could do a set right now! People talk about this generation having no work ethic, but these guys are the exception to the rule.

David Chase on Constructing the Movie's Soundtrack
All the songs were called out in the script; we wrote the songs in because we had to clear them. Obviously, we had to clear the ones the actors were going to re-learn, but unlike when I was doing The Sopranos, we had to clear all the other music in advance too, like the incidental music. So I made up a list of songs and put them in the script. During post-production, I changed some. Like the song for the last scene, the Sex Pistols song "Roadrunner," we must have auditioned 200 songs for that scene. We started out with "River Deep, Mountain High" and ended up with the Sex Pistols. That scene is my way of saying how powerful and beautiful the music is.

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