As anyone in a mobster movie can tell you, the Mafia is, above all, a family business. Stories like The Godfather hinge on the ability (or the inability) of those who are born into a Mafia family to escape their fates. It's the modern-day fiefdom recognizable to any student of Shakespearean tales, but instead of castles and dukedoms, it's dinners in old school Italian restaurants and gunfights for territory. So it would make sense in creating a new story for HBO's hit Sopranos series, creator David Chase turned to family. The Sopranos prequel cast James Gandolfini's son, Michael, in the role that made his father a household name.
Fans may be surprised to learn there's a Sopranos prequel happening. It's one of the many shows from HBO's back catalog being expanded into cinemas along with other mid-aughts hits like Deadwood. First announced as in the works a little less than a year ago, the man behind the original series (which ran on HBO from 1999-2007, David Chase, sold his script The Many Saints of Newark to New Line last March. In July, Alan Taylor, known for both directing episodes of The Sopranos as well as Game of Thrones, signed on to helm the project as director.
Now, the show has cast the most important role of young Tony Soprano, originally played by the late James Gandolfini. It turns out the only one who can play Gandolfini as a young man is another Gandolfini.
According to Deadline, which broke the news:
The late actor’s son has been gaining experience and had a breakout turn on the HBO drama series The Deuce. His resemblance to Tony Soprano is uncanny. The filmmakers engaged in an extensive audition process to find the young Tony before Gandolfini won the role. Insiders said that his screen presence, mastery of Tony’s mannerisms, coupled with his resemblance to the elder Gandolfini made him the standout choice for the role because no one there understood the character better.
James Gandolfini passed away in 2013, six years after the series famous "cut to black" ending.
The new film will be a period piece, set in the later 1960s. A preliminary synopsis for the film is as follows:
The Many Saints of Newark [is] the working title for a feature prequel of The Sopranos that is set in the era of the Newark riots in the 60s. That was a time when the African-Americans and the Italians of Newark were at each other’s throats, and amongst the gangsters of each group, those conflicts became especially lethal.
The younger Gandolfini joins the already-cast Alessandro Nivola, Vera Farmiga, Jon Bernthal, Billy Magnussen, and Corey Stoll. Nivola plays Dickie Moltisanti, Tony's mentor. While nothing has been confirmed, reports suggest the film will be full of references and easter eggs to the original series, as well as earlier versions of characters from the original show dotting the landscape.
The Many Saints of Newark does not yet have any kind of release date, as it has not started filming. Most expect it to be slated for a 2020 release in theaters.