It's been more than five years since Tony Soprano looked up from his family meal at Holsten's diner and then, across America, TV screens went dark.
HBO's legendary The Sopranos series was suddenly over. But the questions from the ambiguous ending still persist, especially over whether Tony, played by James Gandolfini, got whacked.
"People still ask me what happened," says series creator David Chase, who teamed with Gandolfini again on the new film Not Fade Away (opening wider Jan. 4). "They don't ask me if Tony is alive or dead. But I know that's where it's going. My answer is, if I was going to tell you that I would have told you."
Gandolfini doesn't exactly sing like a canary on the topic, either. "I don't know," he says, hands raised. "Take me on my word."
In Chase's mind, focusing on whether Tony was shot by one of the mysterious men in the restaurant misses the point.
"If he didn't die that night he's going to die very soon. And the problem is the same: There are the number of minutes in life and they go like this," says Chase, making a ticking sound. "They're gone. And you don't know when it's coming. That's all I wanted to say."
Gandolfini says he still gets reminded of Don't Stop Believin', the Journey ballad that played on the diner's jukebox during the final scene.
"I just groan," he says. "I hear it all the time. And it used to be when I walked into a restaurant they would play it. And I was like, 'Oh come on!' But it's a flattering thing and I should treat it that way.''
Chase says that he's come to have more respect for the song over the years.
"That wasn't my band growing up,'' he says. "But there was part of me that thought maybe I wanted something uplifting at the end."
Not Fade Away star John Magaro, who was a major Sopranos fan, says he never asked his director about Tony's fate.
"I was afraid I'd get whacked if I asked him directly, " says Magaro. "I think it's for each to determine on their own accord. I think (Chase) likes to hold that card and will until his dying day.''