David Chase Testifies in Jersey Courtroom

Life imitated art in a New Jersey courtroom earlier today when David Chase, the mind behind The Sopranos, testified in the state’s federal court to defend his creative ownership of the HBO series.

Twelve years ago, it seems, he collaborated with a man named Robert Baer, a budding screenwriter and former prosecutor who set up meetings between Mr. Chase and mafia experts during a tour of the Garden State.

Mr. Baer, in part, claims that he was not adequately paid for his services—assistance that may have led to the show’s foundational plot. Asserting ownership of the pilot’s core themes, Mr. Chase, a New Jersey native, told the judge that he has been fascinated with the mob ever since watching The Untouchables. (Whether he was referring to the 1959 TV series or the 1987 Brian De Palma feature film was not made clear.)

As if quoting Tony Soprano, Mr. Baer said he declined payment from Mr. Chase several times in 1995, if only because the series’ creator assured him that he would “take care of him” in due time. Likewise, the screenwriter has called the hired helper “self-delusional” in legal papers. [AP]