Welcome to Great Expectations, a recurring series in which we break down the most essential information about an upcoming movie or show. In this edition, we look at what you can expect from — and where you can watch — the Sopranos prequel, The Many Saints of Newark.
The Sopranos is so beloved that, for some, it has turned “what’s your favorite TV show?” into a kind of boring and predictable question. The show was nominated for 111 Primetime Emmy Awards, (yes, you read that right), and has had countless critics hail it the greatest and most groundbreaking TV show of all time. Set in New Jersey and New York City in the late 90s and early 00s, the show follows Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini), a mobster who starts seeing a therapist for a sudden onset of panic attacks. The show is not only revered for its sharp writing and complex characters, but also for its nuanced dealings with mental illness, family, and Italian-American culture.
It has been almost fourteen years since the series finale of The Sopranos aired and subsequently left a void in the lives of its fans. But luckily for pretty much everyone on the planet, that slick-talking Jersey universe is being revisited in The Many Saints of Newark: A Sopranos Story. Directed by Alan Taylor, who directed episodes of The Sopranos, Mad Men, and Game of Thrones, and written by the one and only creator of The Sopranos: David Chase, and Lawrence Konner (another writer for The Sopranos), the film will serve as a prequel to the show and will star Gandolfini’s son, Michael Gandolfini, as a young Tony. Here’s everything you need to know about the new film.
The Many Saints of Newark Release Date (and Where to Watch)
The Many Saints of Newark was originally slated to be released in the fall of 2020, but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, plans were delayed. Now, it will make its premiere on October 1st, 2021, in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously. Keep in mind, though, that it will only be on HBO Max for 31 days. So plan accordingly.
The Many Saints of Newark Cast
The Sopranos prequel will welcome back some familiar characters, as well as greeting some new ones. Alessandro Nivola (American Hustle) will be starring in the film as Dickie Moltisanti, an important member of the Soprano family. Vera Farmiga (The Departed) will play Tony’s mom, Livia, while Michael Gandolfini will, of course, be playing Tony himself.
The cast also includes Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami), Ray Liotta (Goodfellas), Jon Bernthal (The Wolf of Wall Street), Billy Magnussen (Game Night), Corey Stoll (House of Cards) as Junior Soprano, John Magaro (First Cow), Michela De Rossi, Joey Diaz, and Nick Vallelonga (Green Book).
The Plot of The Many Saints of Newark
Details of the plot of The Many Saints of Newark have remained somewhat under wraps. But David Chase recently confirmed that the film will be set amidst the 1967 race riots of Newark, New Jersey when tensions between Italian-Americans and Black people in the community finally boiled over after years of tension, and twenty-six people were killed and seven-hundred injured. The film will focus primarily on Dickie Moltisanti as the protagonist, who was allegedly murdered when Tony was young. The film will also, of course, take a deep dive into Tony Soprano’s childhood.
Watch the Trailer
The tagline for the trailer of The Many Saints of Newark is: “Legends aren’t born. They’re made.” And that pretty much sums up everything we see in the film’s two-minute-and twenty-two-second preview. There are fistfights. There are multiple windows shattering. There are epic shootouts. All hinting at the wild young adulthood of Tony: a legend in the making.
And for lovers of older Tony Soprano, the trailer indicates that the film will give us all of the insight we need to understand how he became the person he eventually grew into. We see his anger issues bubbling to the surface, as well as the genesis of his tumultuous relationship with his mother. But these aren’t the only things that The Many Saints of Newark has to offer for die-hard Sopranos fans. We also see younger versions of some of our old favorites, such as Uncle Junior (played here by Stoll), Paulie (Magnussen), Big Pussy (Samson Moeakiola), and Silvio (Magaro). Watch the trailer here and see for yourself.
How Michael Gandolfini Feels About Playing His Father
One of the biggest draws of The Many Saints of Newark is that Michael Gandolfini will be playing a younger version of his father’s iconic character. But, understandably, that job comes with some difficulties. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Gandolfini admitted that filling his late dad’s shoes was no easy feat. He explained why he didn’t watch The Sopranos until recently, explaining that his father “didn’t want me to see Tony Soprano – the violence, the anger, the mean… it was really hard to watch my dad.”
But Gandolfini added that eventually watching his father in The Sopranos served as a huge inspiration for him in the upcoming film. “I recorded four hours of his monologues with Melfi and walked around New York with them constantly, constantly playing in my ear.”
Michael Gandolfini’s stepmother told The Post that “It was almost surreal to see Michael in the trailer. I know it took a lot of courage for him to take this role. It was very emotional. But the whole family is just so proud of him. His father would be very proud.”