The actor, who played mob boss Tony Soprano, was afraid viewers wouldn’t get the quip, which was an obscure film reference, but – according to director Allen Coulter – Chase didn’t care as he believed “somebody” would get it.
The joke in question arrives in season two, episode 13 – titled “The Knight in White Satin Armour” – during a conversation between Tony and uncle Junior (Dominic Chianese).
After Junior reveals to Tony that Richie Aprile (David proval) is planning to kill him, Tony asks why Richie would trust Junior with that information. His uncle says he was “playing” Richie.
“You’re like a double agent now, huh? F***in’ Matt Helm,“ Tony quips, referencing the double agent played by Dean Martin in four films, including The Silencers (1966) and The Wrecking Crew (1969).
Coulter told Vanity Fair he was the one who took Gandolfini’s request to Chase.
“You did not change lines; you didn’t change anything unless you got permission,” he said.
As it stands, it’s a perfect joke that succinctly gets across Junior’s love of 1960s Hollywood (lest we forget he was a big fan of Martin's Rio Bravo co-star Angie Dickinson).