Anthony John "Tony" Soprano is a fictional character and the protagonist in the HBO television drama series The Sopranos, portrayed by James Gandolfini. The Italian-American character was conceived by Sopranos creator and show runner David Chase, who was also largely responsible for the character's story arc throughout the show's six seasons. The character is loosely based on real-life New Jersey mobster Vincent "Vinny Ocean" Palermo (born 1944), a former caporegime (capo) and de facto boss of the DeCavalcante crime family of New Jersey. Considered to be the model for the DiMeo crime family, several incidents involving the DeCavalcantes were incorporated into Sopranos scripts. Bobby Boriello portrayed Soprano as a child in one episode and Danny Petrillo played the character as a teenager in three episodes.
In the first season, Tony is a capo in the DiMeo crime family. Between the first and second seasons, he is promoted to street boss, a position he retains until the sixth season; his uncle Corrado "Junior" Soprano is the official boss up until early in the sixth season, but has little or no actual power. Throughout the series, Tony struggles to balance the conflicting requirements of his actual family— wife Carmela, daughter Meadow, son A. J., and mother Livia—with those of the Mafia family he controls. He often displays behavior traits characteristic of a violent sociopath, but also struggles with depression and is prone to panic attacks. He seeks treatment from Dr. Jennifer Melfi in the first episode and remains in therapy on and off up until the penultimate episode of the series.
Gandolfini garnered enormous praise for his portrayal of the character, winning three Emmy Awards for Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series, three Screen Actors Guild Awards for Best Male Actor in a Drama Series and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama as well as two additional SAG Awards for Best Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
Narrated killings committed by Tony Soprano Edit
Tony has personally committed eight murders in the show. Furthermore, as a Boss, he is responsible for the deaths of others killed on his orders. The eight known murders, all explicitly presented onscreen, were:
- Willie Overall, shot and killed by Tony to "make his bones" (become a made man) (1982, in "Remember When").
- Fabian "Febby" Petrulio, strangled by Tony for ratting out members of Paulie and Pussy's crew and joining the witness protection program (1999, in "College").
- Chucky Signore, shot and killed by Tony for conspiring to kill him with Junior (1999, in "I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano").
- Matthew Bevilaqua, killed by Tony and Big Pussy for attempting to kill Christopher Moltisanti (Tony's protégé and cousin in-law) (2000, in "From Where to Eternity").
- Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero, executed by Tony, Silvio, and Paulie on a yacht, after they discovered that he was an FBI informant (2000, in "Funhouse").
- Ralph Cifaretto, choked/bludgeoned to death in a fight over Ralph's supposedly killing their prize-winning race horse "Pie-O-My" for insurance money. (2002, in "Whoever Did This").
- Tony Blundetto, shot and killed by Tony with a shotgun for the unauthorized killings of Joe Peeps and Billy Leotardo, in order to spare him from being the subject of torture from Phil Leotardo in revenge for his brother's death, as well as spare his own crew from the threat of retaliation (2004, in "All Due Respect").
- Christopher Moltisanti, suffocated by Tony, following a major car accident with Christopher as the driver and Tony as the passenger, Christopher revealed that he was still using drugs and was worried about going to hospital (2007, in "Kennedy and Heidi").
It is made clear that some of these murders leave Tony perplexed as to how to cope with the situation; most notably, after murdering Christopher Moltisanti, he feels a rush of relief for finally being rid of an associate whom he feels he can no longer trust. He has to "show the sad face" while the rest of the family grieves, but Tony reassures himself that Moltisanti's murder was necessary, despite the hurt caused to the family.
The murder of Fabian "Febby" Petrulio in "College", is out of retaliation for Febby getting members of Tony's crew killed in prison when he rats them out to get immunity. Tony does this out of justice as he has contempt for Febby getting away with it initially.
The murder of "Big Pussy" in "Funhouse" weighs heavily on Tony. He is at first tempted to spare his old friend, and even seems to be in denial for quite a long time, but in the end knows his priorities. In the years to follow, Tony—along with Silvio and Paulie—have haunting dreams of the murder of their friend.
Tony kills Ralph Cifaretto after their horse, Pie-O-My, dies amid suspicious circumstances in "Whoever Did This". Tony tries to confront Ralph about the situation but, after some heated words, Tony loses control and murders Ralph following a violent fight. Though no solid proof was found that the fire killing Pie-O-My was arson, Tony is convinced Ralph did it. It is also implied that this burst of rage could have been fueled by delayed revenge for Ralph's brutal murder of stripper Tracee, considering Tony uttered "She was a beautiful, innocent creature. What'd she ever do to you? You fucking killed her!", which could apply to both the female horse and the young woman.
The murder of Matthew Bevilaqua was vengeance, an act that had to be carried out since the fact that Christopher was shot was a direct affront to him as Boss. Tony takes satisfaction in it, as it is revenge for an attempt on the life of one of his relatives. He is however still at unease with the murder due to Bevilaqua's young age.
The murder of his cousin, Tony Blundetto (in "All Due Respect"), is solely to save him from a far worse death if he were to fall into Phil's hands, and so that Tony does not lose his reputation as a Boss (as well as sparing the other members of his own crew from Phil's threats of retaliation, thus preserving their loyalty).
The murder of his nephew, Christopher Moltisanti (in "Kennedy and Heidi") was not done out of mob-related necessity. Christopher had been addicted to heroin, cocaine, and alcohol for many years and had not conquered his addiction in rehab. While Moltisanti presented a threat to Tony's life and the New Jersey Mob, it was ultimately an emotional reaction. Tony was about to call 911 following a motor vehicle accident. Christopher, who obviously needed urgent medical attention, told him that he would "never pass the drug test" and would therefore lose his driver's license. He asked Tony to call for a taxi. Tony looked at the baby seat on the backseat of the SUV which had been destroyed by a tree branch, closed his phone and suffocated Christopher by holding his nose shut so that he choked to death on his own blood. Tony did not plan to murder Christopher but saw the opportunity after the car accident. Tony was never suspected of this murder.