Mafia hits streets on 'Sopranos'

— Mobsters fresh out of prison and on the loose provide the impetus for the fifth season of HBO's drama "The Sopranos," series creator David Chase said.

A New Jersey newspaper story about organized crime figures prosecuted in the 1980s inspired him, Chase told the Television Critics Assn. on Thursday night.

"The Sopranos," which returns March 7 with 13 new episodes, begins with the "Mafia class of 2004 hitting the streets," Chase said, speaking to the group via satellite from Paris.

Chase, usually coy about sharing plot details, gave a broad sense of what was in store for New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), estranged wife Carmela (Edie Falco) and the rest of the gang.

"It has to do with the limitations of family relationships and friendships in a sort of materialist world," Chase said. "And also the fact that Tony Soprano is kind of a mature boss."

But he's not yet a "lion in winter," he added.

One more season, with 10 episodes, is planned for the critically acclaimed, Emmy-winning series.

Although there had been talk of a movie, Chase was uncertain about the possibility.

"I wouldn't say no to that completely but these last 10 episodes will be that movie, I believe."

Chase was queried about the fate of two characters: Furio, who worked for Tony and flirted with Carmela before wisely leaving the country, and a Russian gangster who battled it out with Tony's boys in the woods.

Would Furio be back? "He's gone." The Russian? "He's gone."

Gandolfini was among several cast members who appeared before critics to promote the drama. He was asked about whether the breakup of Tony's marriage offered fresh acting opportunities and challenges.

"Having gone through something similar personally, it was a little difficult to have to dredge those things up sometimes. ... In terms of the acting ... it just makes you think real deep," he said.

Would he miss Tony when the series ends?

"I'm not ready to say goodbye to the character but I'm not going to miss him. Does that make sense?" Gandolfini said, adding, "When it's over the right way -- I'll see you later."


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