Steven Van Zandt Tells Bruce Springsteen He Nearly Played Tony Soprano on ‘The Sopranos’

by Keeli Parkey

For most fans of the iconic HBO series “The Sopranos,” no one but James Gandolfini could have brought the anti-hero that was Tony Soprano to life. For these fans, James Gandolfini was Tony Soprano – the late actor simply embodied that character like no one else could have. However, according to Steven Van Zandt, someone else almost played that famous mobster.

So, who was that person?

Well, according to what Van Zandt told his friend and E Street Band cohort, Bruce Springsteen, that person was Van Zandt himself. According to Variety, the 70-year-old rocker talked about the casting of “The Sopranos” during a webcast with Springsteen on Tuesday, Sept. 28.

Based on what Steven Van Zandt had to say, it was the plan of “The Sopranos” creator David Chase that he played the show’s main character. However, as Van Zandt said during the discussion, “cooler heads prevailed.”

After all, as Van Zandt also said, he was a “guy who never acted before.” And, “The Sopranos” was being created at a price tag of approximately $30 million.

Steven Van Zandt Said ‘The Sopranos’ Creator Wrote a Role Just for Him

During his conversation with Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt also recounted a conversation he had with David Chase. Chase, of course, was the creator of “The Sopranos.”

Van Zandt said it was HBO that wouldn’t allow Chase to cast him as Tony Soprano. This news was met with acceptance from the E Street Band artist.

“Davey was like, well, HBO won’t let me… I said, ‘Now that I’m thinking about it, David, I really appreciate this opportunity. I really do. But I feel guilty taking an actor’s job. My wife’s (Maureen Van Zandt) a real actor. I watched her go to school for years, off-Broadway, off-off-Broadway, I mean, they do these classes and I feel guilty taking a job. And he says, ‘All right, I’ll tell you what. I want you in the show. And I will write you in a part that doesn’t exist,'” Van Zandt recalled.

James Gandolfini famously went on to play Tony Soprano. But, as he noted, that didn’t mean that Steven Van Zandt was left out of the popular drama completely. According to IMDb, the rocker played the character of Silvio Dante for 79 episodes from 1999 until 2007.

His role in “The Sopranos” wasn’t the only one of Van Zandt’s career. From 2012 until 2014, he also appeared in the television series “Lilyhammer.” He also had roles in the films “The Christmas Chronicles” and “The Irishman.”

Here’s an interesting tidbit about Van Zandt and his role as Silvio Dante in “The Sopranos” – Maureen Van Zandt, the rocker’s wife, played Silvio’s wife in the hit HBO show. Her character was Gabriella Dante.