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David Chase finds new creative rhythm with 'Not Fade Away'

Published On: Apr 29 2013 07:01:38 PM CDT
'Not Fade Away' writer-director David Chase.

Paramount Pictures

'Not Fade Away' writer-director David Chase.

While acclaimed writer-director David Chase shows the harsh reality of the music business in "Not Fade Away," the last thing the filmmaker wants is for aspiring singers and musicians to let their dreams fade away in fear of the tough circumstances they're about to face.

"It wasn't my intention to crush dreams at all -- you should definitely have dreams -- but they're hard to maintain," Chase told me in a recent interview. "But that's what makes them valuable. Achieving a dream can transform your life, obviously, and I was more interested in the positive parts of dreams rather than the negative."

New on DVD and Blu-ray (Paramount Home Entertainment) Tuesday,
"Not Fade Away" -- which marks Chase's feature film debut as a writer and director -- follows Douglas (John Magaro) and a group of fellow suburban teen musicians who form a rock 'n' roll band and try to make it amid the changing cultural landscape of the 1960s.

Bella Heathcote ("Dark Shadows") also stars as Douglas' girlfriend and biggest supporter, and Chase's longtime "Sopranos" colleague, James Gandolfini, plays Douglas' father and biggest detractor.

There's a line spoken by Gandolfini in the film and later echoed by a pivotal character later in the film about success being defined by "10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration." Funny enough, Chase added, there's also vital intangible that must be figured in on top of that.

"What that saying doesn't account for is luck. It's a tremendous that has so much to do with it -- a tremendous force that can't be explained," Chase said. "It can't be claimed, but it's huge."

In the case of "Not Fade Away," it's a serendipitous moment when the band's lead singer, Eugene (Jack Huston), accidentally inhales an entire joint and burns the back of his throat, opening the window for Douglas to step out of the catacombs of the rhythm section as drummer into the spotlight of being a lead singer. And, as it turns out, Douglas' voice and presence he establishes as a front man is pretty spectacular.

"There's a lot of luck involved. Especially if you're successful in the music business, any phase of it, you have to give fortune its due," Chase said.

Appropriately, Chase sets the tone for the film at the beginning with a bit of real-life serendipity, when in a brief prologue he recreates the first meeting between a young Mick Jagger (Dominic Sherwood) and Keith Richards (Alfie Stewart) on a train in London. It establishes the impetus of who they would one day become, Chase said, and more.

"That's why the Rolling Stones were in the movie at the beginning. We know about their trajectory, but we had to look at them in retrospect to show that not only did those two kids really have the goods, musically, but they really had something else that made them stick with it," Chase said.

While Chase's rock 'n' roll dreams of being a drummer in his youth never quite materialized, there's no arguing that he went on to make an amazing cultural impact in a different area of the entertainment business as the creator of the classic, multi-Emmy Award-winning HBO series "The Sopranos."

Better yet, "Not Fade Away" gave Chase, 67, the opportunity to work with Gandolfini for the first time since the series ended in 2007. Working with Gandolfini is in a sense like working with another band mate who's not afraid to make suggestions to get the piece into a proper rhythm, Chase explained.

"He's just extremely intelligent," Chase said."He reads the script very carefully and it has to be logical for him. He's not afraid to point out the smallest bit where logic might fail. But it's not like he'll say, 'We've got to re-write this,' but ask instead, 'How do we have to stage this so it makes sense?'"

Like he did with the finale of "The Sopranos," Chase leaves the end of "Not Fade Away" up for interpretation. One could argue that he ends his projects that way to reflect that life is full of uncertainties, but Chase likes to look at it from a different standpoint.

"If I were to think about it, uncertainty means possibility," Chase observed. "It's only through uncertainty that you see possibilities. It's kind of a circular logic question. True, there's an uncertainty, but that's what makes it an adventure, and that's what makes it worth living. It could go either way … Doug is certainly headed in some direction, but his old friend rock 'n' roll is alongside him."