Gandolfini, Chase Make Sopranos Cast Sweat

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On the set of The Sopranos, which returns to HBO for its 7th season this March, life often imitates art.

For one, the actors who make up Tony Soprano’s crew, from "Paulie Walnuts" Gualtieri (Tony Sirico) to Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri (Steve Schirripa), all treat James Gandolfini like the fictional mob boss he made famous. Flash! hears from Sopranos insiders that all the actors get quiet when the mercurial Gandolfini deigns to speak; they laugh too hard at his jokes and make every allowance for his real-life excesses.

The only person treated with more deference from the actors who’ve become famous for playing gangsters in the most notorious Mafia family since the Corleones is The Sopranos creator David Chase.

The actors who make the Bada Bing their second home fear each time they crack open a new script that Chase has decided they should sleep with the fishes à la Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero (Vincent Pastore), who got his at the end of season two.

Most of the series’ fictional gangsters make big bucks—as much as $10,000 a pop—doing personal appearances, everywhere from weddings to casinos.

But once Chase decides you should be fitted for a cement suit, those gigs tend to go away.