When casting for The Sopranos began, three men were poised for the coveted role of Tony Soprano — James Gandolfini, Michael Rispoli (who played acting boss Jackie Aprile in Season 1), and Steven Van Zandt (via the New York Post) . In an interview with Vanity Fair, Van Zandt reflected on how show creator David Chase originally wanted him to star, but HBO was reluctant due to his lack of acting experience.
Although Chase apologized and told Van Zandt that he “could have any other role you want,” Van Zandt agreed with HBO. “I said, ‘You know what, now that I think about it, I feel kind of bad about taking on the role of another actor here. i am a guitarist These guys go to school, they go off Broadway, they work for five, ten years to hone their craft and be waiters and whatever,” he explained.
Chase offered to write a brand new role for Van Zandt, but the up-and-coming actor forestalled him. By the time Van Zandt decided to pursue acting, he had written a few story concepts, including one that focused on Silvio Dante, an independent hitman who had just retired.
His character on The Sopranos is far from retired, but Chase liked the idea and they made Silvio somewhat iconic. In fact, some fans believe that Silvio, who is in a coma at the end of the series, will continue in “Lilyhammer”. The show follows Van Zandt as Frank Tagliano, a crime boss who enters the witness protection program. According to a fan theory, Frank’s events could all be Silvio’s coma dream.