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‘Sopranos’ boss Chase, HBO take out contract

Producer gets greenlight for 'Fell'

NEW YORK — “Sopranos” creator and exec producer David Chase has completed a deal that keeps him as the HBO drama’s godfather through a fourth season.

At the same time, HBO has guaranteed him a greenlight on “If I Fell,” a script Chase wrote and will direct as a feature likely to be distributed by Time Warner-owned Warner Bros. or New Line.

Chase, who just wrapped production of the second season of “The Sopranos,” had previously made a deal extension to run the show through its third season, with plans to hand it over to another showrunner the following year (Daily Variety, June 17, 1999).

But the mob drama has been such a critical sensation that both HBO original programming president Chris Albrecht and exec producer Brad Grey favored giving Chase an extension that keeps him at the helm for another 26 episodes, an expansion of the deal that sources pegged as worth an eight-figure amount for seasons three and four.

At the same time, HBO parent Time Warner will finance and Grey will produce “If I Fell,” a romantic drama set in the fringes of the music business. Chase will rewrite his original script and direct the feature at the completion of “The Sopranos’ ” third season.

Though Chase previously set up his script “Female Suspect” at Sony, “If I Fell” likely will mark Chase’s feature directorial debut, covering a world Chase adores almost as much as the one inhabited by his New Jersey mobsters. He has begun drawing up plans for the show’s third season, with shooting to begin this summer for a series premiere expected for early 2001.

“Sopranos,” a partnership between HBO and Brad Grey Television, has become as hardware-heavy as its well-armed mobster characters: Chase just won a Directors Guild of America Award for helming the show’s pilot episode, and last fall won an Emmy for writing, one of 16 categories in which the show was nominated.

“Sopranos” also recently won four Golden Globe Awards, including best dramatic series.

Chase was repped in the deal by UTA and attorney Michael Gendler of Gendler & Kelly.

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