The Sopranos

Seasons Type Genres
6 Serial Crime/Drama
Scene Count
Pilot Screenplay
66 77

Main Characters

The Sopranos:

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Thomas Soprano

(Character name used: Tommy)
40

Carmela Soprano

(Character name used: Carmela)
(mid 30’s)
She is dark-eyed, dark-haired, pretty woman with blond hi-lites. Hi-lites and nails are a priority.

Meadow Soprano

(Character name used: Meadow)
15

Tommy Soprano Jr.

(Character name used: Tommy Jr.)
He’s thirteen.

Chris Molitsanti

1361871612460sopranodnChris

(25) is in cool-ass cruise mode. Good looking — almost pretty — wears an earring, a Jersey Shark’s ball cap.

Dr. Jennifer Melfi

dr_melfiMelfi

(attractive, 35)

Other Characters:

Corrado “Junior” Soprano
(Character name used: Junior)
Junior is smallish with coke-battle lenses.

Big Pussy Bonpensiero
(Character name used: Big Pussy)
A Large man.
BIG PUSSY BONPENSIERO should not be confused with LITTLE PUSSY MALANGA, of whom we shall learn more shortly.

Silvio Dante
(Character name used: Silvio)
Nattily dressed…

Livia Soprano
(Character name used: Livia)
Livia looks older than her sixty-nine years. She’s wearing a housecoat and slippers.

Father Phil
(Character name used: Father Phil)
Thirtysomething priest.

Character Differences

Tony Soprano was originally named Tommy Soprano in the screenplay.
Tony Soprano Jr., was also named Tommy Soprano Jr.

Chris is changed slightly to be less whiny. (In the screenplay, there is a scene of him crying.)

Meadow is changed to a typical teenage girl instead of having dark fantasies in the end of the screenplay.

Act Breakdown

In both the pilot and the screenplay there are no structured act breaks, so I have broken down the pilot into 3 acts.

In the first act, we are introduced to Tony and his family, all the story lines and the act ends with Tony collapsing.

In the second act, Tony and his men try to deal with deal with the Artie Bucco scenario.

In the third act, Tony and his men figure out a back up plan to deal with the Artie Bucco plan after their first attempt fails.

Tony Soprano is the main character so I will be focusing on him.

Excel Breakdown Pilot Screenplay
The Sopranos Screenplay Breakdown The Sopranos
SCREENPLAY PILOT
Act 1

Structure

Tony leads in with a voice-over about Meadow’s friend and the kitchen scene continues instead of being broken up by the psychiatry scene.

The entire sequence of Chris and Tony chasing Mahaffey is seen from Tony’s perspective behind the wheel.
The scene of Tony and Chris in the car after the Mahaffey chase is cut.
It cuts to the breakfast meeting scene with a voice-over explaining instead of a psychiatry scene.

A Scene of Uncle Junior arriving at the house for the party is cut.

Main Points:

Tony, crime boss, is in therapy for his problems.
Tony beats the shit out of someone who owes him Money.
Tony learns his Uncle Junior is going to whack someone in his friend’s restaurant.
Tony learns that the Kolar brothers are trying to steal business.
Tony bonds with ducks in his pool.

Breakdown:


Tony is introduced as the crime boss of New Jersey and throughout the act we see several different sides of him:
We see him as a sympathetic family man, interacting with his family and caring for his ducks.
We see him as a crime boss as he runs down a man with Chris’s car and beats the shit out of him in public.
We see a man who is internally conflicted and must see a psychiatrist because of all the problems he deals with.
We also see the introduction of the problems he faces as a crime boss. New players are moving in on the garbage business and Tony’s uncle wants to kill a rival in a restaurant owned by Tony’s good friend Artie.
There is internal conflict and external conflict and plenty to relate to as Tony deals with work and family.

End of Act 1: Soprano collapses as he barbecues.

Best Scene from Act 1: Chris and Soprano see and beat the shit out of Mahaffey.

Script Notes:

The scene with Tony’s eye is shot exactly as described in the screenplay.

The scene when Tony and Chris initially spot Maheffey is shot POV from behind them in the car with different dialogue.

In the screenplay, Chris chases after Maheffey and Tony finally catches Mahaffey off guard by surprising him with the car.
In the pilot, the entire chase is from Tony’s perspective from behind the wheel.

In the screenplay, Silvio shows up in a car and his line is said in a voice-over as the scene transitions.
In the pilot, Silvio walks up and says his line in the scene.

Throughout the first act, the psychiatry scene is used to transition from scene to scene.
In the pilot, there are slight changes to the order and whether or not we see a psychiatry scene or a voice over.

Act 2

Structure

Actual order of pilot:
Soprano tells Dr. Melfi he has been depressed since the ducks left.
Chris and Pussy try to dispose of Emil’s body.
Soprano passes out again.
Soprano admits to Dr. Melfi it is hard to run a business today.
Soprano, Chris and Herman discuss their problems about Artie and Mahaffey.

Main Points
Tony deals with the aftermath of collapsing.
Tony tries to get Artie out of town.
Chris deals with the Kolar’s new business.
Tony collapses again.
Tony sends his men to deal with Mahaffey.

Breakdown

Tony has suffered a set back after collapsing at the family barbecue.
With this new limitation and mounting problems, Tony starts delegating tasks which expands the roles of his friends and family.
Chris, his nephew, deals with the new players in town and Big Pussy and Herman deal with Mahaffey.
Meanwhile Tony focuses on helping his friend out because he personally cares about him and his business.
It’s important to note that although there are several story lines stemming from Tony, the one he deals with directly is making sure Uncle Junior doesn’t kill someone in Artie Bucco’s restaurant. This is a personal matter and Tony wants to make sure it is dealt with correctly.

End of Act 2:Artie gives back the cruise tickets.

Best Scenes from Act 2: Chris kills Emil.

Script Notes:

In the screenplay, Tony is naked for the MRI.
In the pilot, he is wearing a hospital gown.
There is no shot from Tony’s POV when he is wearing the glasses for the MRI.

In the screenplay, Chris mentions his cousin Anthony multiple times.
In the pilot, the cousin’s name is changed to Greg because Soprano was renamed Tony instead of Tommy.

In the pilot, Chris and Emil improvise with props such as a hammer as they are talking.

In the pilot, the black and white photos of the mobsters on the wall are shown between gunshots as Chris kills Emil.

In the screenplay, Chris asks the pigs head if it has seen Emil yet, if he has arrived where the dead pig is.
In the pilot, Chris is a lot more grounded and not as crazy, so he just glances at the pig head. Although the shot looked like he could have said it and it was later cut out in editing.

In the screenplay, Father Phil is present when Carmela catches Meadow in the backyard.
In the pilot, Father Phil is cut from the scene.

In the screenplay, the topless bar scene has the booth at the back and dialogue about Junior receiving word that his hit was given the okay by New York.
In the pilot, the topless bar scene has the booth upstairs and the dialogue about New York okaying the hit is cut completely.

In the screenplay, the scene where Chris and Pussy haul Emil’s body starts from them arriving in the truck and attempting to toss the body three times before deciding against it.
In the pilot, the scene starts with Chris and Pussy hauling the body, and only tossing the body once. Several of the dialogue is cut to shorten the scene even more.

In the screenplay, the scene between Carmela and Meadow discussing their annual tradition is written from Carmela’s POV.
In the pilot, the scene is seen from Meadow’s room and POV.

In the screenplay, Artie is nervous about accepting the cruise tickets and reluctantly accepts.
In the pilot, Artie is grateful for the tickets as Tony forces them on him.

In the screenplay, Mahaffey meets with Herman at an ice cream stand.
In the pilot, Mahaffey meets with Herman at an ice cream truck, which later drives away drawing away the crowd.

In the screenplay, Artie makes an excuse to give back the tickets.
In the pilot, Artie just gives back the tickets without an excuse.

In the screenplay, Chris sulks and cries about not being appreciated.
In the pilot, this is cut entirely, probably because it made him look like a bitch.

Act 3

Structure

The scene of Soprano admitting he was afraid to lose his ducks is added after Silvio blows up the restaurant.
A scene of Tony making a move on Dr. Melfi is cut.
A scene of Meadow being burned at the steak in a fantasy is cut.
A scene of Carmela allowing Meadow to go on her trip, but Meadow deciding to focus on school instead, is cut.

Main Points
Tony cheats on his wife.
Tony tells his wife he’s on Prozac.
Tony deals with Artie’s situation.

Breakdown

Just to add more layers to Tony, we see him openly cheat on his wife and then a few scenes later tell his wife he will always be honest with her.
All of the story lines neatly wrap up by the end of the episode.
Chris successfully scares off the new players.
Mahaffey is successfully blackmailed and threatened into making fraudulent claims to pay of his debt.
Tony successfully gets Artie a consolation prize in insurance money instead of a business killer such as a murder taking place in his restaurant.
This perfectly captures the way Tony feels about life at the moment, sometimes you have to make tough decisions, but in the end it is probably the best solution available.
Throughout the episode we learn Tony is a resourceful man.
We learn Chris is trying to make his way into the business and gain Tony’s respect.
We see relationship tension between Meadow and her mother.
And we meet a colorful supporting cast.

End of Act 3 :The Sopranos have dinner.

Best Scene from Act 3: Silvio sets the restaurant on fire.

Script Notes:

In the screenplay, Tony acknowledges Dr. Melfi after he gets her a table at the restaurant.
In the pilot, Tony doesn’t acknowledge Dr. Melfi and just continues on with his night after he gets her a table.

In the screenplay, during the dinner, “it gets quiet” is used.
In the pilot, the waiter comes in at this moment to break up the dialogue.

In the screenplay, Tony accidentally talks like a mobster in front of Carmela.
In the pilot, this dialogue is cut.

In the screenplay, it is pointed out that Chris is sleeping with Mahaffey’s secretary.
In the pilot, it is unknown or at least not enough time was spent on her to confirm it was Mahaffey’s secretary.

In the screenplay, Tony smacks Chris after he threatens to go public with their stories.
In the pilot, Tony just grabs him aggressively.

In the screenplay, Junior mentions his brother stealing Livia away from him.
In the pilot, this dialogue is cut.

In the screenplay, it is stated that Livia’s silence in the car means Junior has her blessing to take care of Tony.
In the pilot, this is done very subtle and without reading the pilot, it would be very hard to tell that she was consenting to his proposal.

Overall Breakdown

Sopranos is not your typical pilot. The story is a snapshot of Tony Soprano’s life rather than a typical linear story. There are six situations Tony has to deal with:

The Kolar brothers moving on his business:
resolved with Chris killing Emil sending a message to back off.

Mahaffey owes him money and refuses to pay back until he is beaten:
resolved with Herman and Big Pussy threatening Mahaffey, so he scams his own company in order to pay back Tony.

His Uncle tries to whack someone in his friend Artie Bucco’s restaurant:
resolved by setting the restaurant on fire so he at least collects insurance.

Tony is trying to move his mother into a nursing home:
Ongoing problem.

Tony is dealing with depression and seeing a psychiatrist:
Ongoing problem.

There is also a side story of Carmela dealing with Meadow after grounding her for sneaking out.

There isn’t much time spent on developing each story, as each story line is given about three to five scenes max. It’s a day in the life of Tony and we can clearly see why he is passing out and seeing a psychiatrist. He switches from loving father figure, to violent mobster, to concerned friend, to scheming strategist, to a cheating ladies man. Tony is a complicated man, and that is shown throughout the pilot.

Overall the pilot does a fantastic job introducing everyone involved in Tony’s life while exploring the various roles he has to play and the problems he has to deal with.

From a writing stand point, the use of the psychiatry scenes and the voice over were interchangeable when it came to the pilot, either one was used and accomplished the same thing.

There are several scenes that were taken out because it probably didn’t fit the overall tone of the show or the characters. Chris is a great character on screen as headstrong cocky young man, but in the pilot he cries in one scene for being underappreciated. It didn’t fit the character to have him so emotional, so it was rightfully cut.

Another scene rightfully removed is Meadow fantasizing about being burned at the steak as she writes about it in her journal. The fantasy transitions into Meadow telling her mother she shouldn’t go to Aspen and will instead focus on school. Whether or not Meadow is playing mind games is unclear, but heavily hinted at given Carmela’s dumbfounded reaction. This entire sequences was cut from the pilot, probably because it felt out of place and would have given Meadow a characteristic of being slightly insane.

The last significant scene cut is Tony making a move on Dr. Melfi. Dr. Melfi plays it off as an attempt by Tony to have her quit on him, but she brushes it aside and tells him to come back. Tony already cheated once this episode and it was probably a better idea to let his relationship with Dr. Melfi build before throwing in another element.

Screenwriting Techniques

Inside the Main Character’s Head

Although not very common, The Sopranos uses the scenes with the psychiatrist to give us a look inside the head of Tony. Audience usually only gather what the character’s intentions and motivations are by what they are shown doing. With the psychiatrist, the audience actually gets to hear how Tony is feeling and how he is dealing with it, similar to the inner dialogue from a character in a novel.

Voice Over

There are plenty examples of voice overs during a scene and before a scene.

POV Shot

The screenplay has several POV shots that bring focus to a particular object:
Tommy’s Eye. The Lexus. The Duck Family
The POVs are placed in all caps and separated into its own paragraph.

Example of an Edited Page

In the Soprano pilot there is an example of an original draft page on page 24 and then the edited version right after. (Both are labelled 24) I thought it was a duplicate, but realized there are changes between the two pages.

Parenthesis and Underlining

There are several uses of parenthesis to add more direction to dialogue and several uses of underlined words to add emphasis.

Setting up the Scene

Some descriptions are to the point. And Broken up. Like this.
Some of the main points are given in short sentences to set up a new scene, unless someone new is being introduced, or a new setting is being shown.

Story

If you want an example of a pilot that has a structure, but doesn’t seem like it has a structure, The Sopranos is a great example. The stories all have a beginning, middle and end, but are woven together to make it seem like we are just a fly on the wall of Tony’s life.

Next Screenplay: The Last Man on Earth: Friday Mar 17.

Bonus Article: 5 Pilot Comparison: Tuesday Mar 21

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