Ask anyone what their favourite television series of all time is, and you’re likely to receive Breaking Bad, The West Wing, The Wire or The Sopranos as the answer.
The latter ran for six seasons on HBO from 1999 to 2007, winning 21 Primetime Emmy Awards, five Golden Globe Awards, and two Peabody Awards among many others.
The series centres on Tony Soprano (the late James Gandolfini), a New Jersey-based Italian-American mafioso as he tries to balance his family life with his role as the leader of a criminal organisation. Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco and Michael Imperioli also starred in main roles.
Now, New Line Cinema’s much-anticipated feature film, The Many Saints of Newark, will serve as the prequel to the groundbreaking drama series. The film which will land in cinemas in September 2021, is set in the explosive era of the Newark riots, when rival gangsters began to rise up, challenging the all-powerful DiMeo crime family’s hold over the city.
In possibly the most perfect casting ever, the young Tony Soprano is played by James Gandolfini’s son, Michael. The film sees Tony as a struggling high school student who has no interest in learning the “family trade” before his Uncle Dickie (played by Alessandro Nivola) sees his potential and begins mentoring him in all aspects of the ways of the mob.
Gandolfini told Esquire in 2019 that it had been a “difficult decision” taking on the younger version of the role his dad had made so legendary and noted that his father has encouraged him to pursue directing instead of acting, as directors “have the power.”
“The funny thing is, before the audition, I had never watched a minute of The Sopranos. I was just a kid when he was making it,” he said.
“The hardest part of this whole process was watching the show for the first time. It was an intense process. Because, as an actor, I had to watch this guy who created the role, to look for mannerisms, voice, all those things I would have to echo. But then I’d also be seeing my father. I think what made it so hard was I had to do it alone. I was just sitting alone in my dark apartment, watching my dad all the time.”
Directed by Alan Taylor, the film was shot on location in New Jersey and New York, and several beloved characters from the original series that inspired the film are featured in the movie.
The Many Saints of Newark also stars Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnussen, Michela De Rossi and John Magaro, with Emmy winner Ray Liotta and Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga. The film will be in theatres on November 4, 2021.