Last October, character details first emerged for The Many Saints of Newark - a prequel to the iconic HBO series The Sopranos and now, a younger version of Tony Soprano has been confirmed for the new movie. In 1999, The Sopranos premiered on HBO starring a mostly unknown James Gandolfini. Created by David Chase, the crime drama not only explored the familial dynamics of the titular family, but also the inherent drama of the family business.
Throughout its six-season run, The Sopranos set the bar for “prestige TV,” all the while paving the way for more cinematic series like Game of Thrones. In 2013, Gandolfini passed away suddenly at age 51 in Rome, thus ending discussions about a narrative continuation while raising questions about a possible prequel. Last year, Chase confirmed that The Many Saints of Newark had begun production for a story about race relations during the 1967 Newark riots, and that Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor would helm the movie. From 1999 to 2007, Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) directed nine episodes of The Sopranos.
This week, Chase is celebrating The Sopranos’ 20th anniversary with numerous events in New York City, and he confirmed the inclusion of a young Tony Soprano character for The Many Saints of Newark, per Deadline. In an interview, Chase discusses his familial connections to Newark and how that connects to the prequel’s narrative timeline: “I used to go to down there every Saturday night for dinner with my grandparents. But the thing that interested me most was Tony’s boyhood. I was interested in exploring that.”
In addition, Chase expressed concern about making a prequel, but he also noted how the 1967 riots allowed for an intriguing storyline: “I was living in suburban New Jersey at the time that happened, and my girlfriend was working in downtown Newark. I was just interested in the whole Newark riot thing. I started thinking about those events and organized crime, and I just got interested in mixing those two elements.” Chase also commented about the mafia’s polished style during the 60s: “These weren’t guys who wore tracksuits, back then.”
When The Sopranos first premiered in 1999, journalists Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall covered the HBO series for Chase’s hometown newspaper, The Star-Ledger. Two decades later, the pair wrote a book, The Sopranos Sessions, to celebrate the iconic TV show. Tomorrow, Seitz, Sepinwall, and Chase will appear at the Sopranos Film Festival at New York City’s IFC Center, with five days of events planned for series enthusiasts. As for The Many Saints of Newark, Chase is currently in the process of casting the film.
Based on Chase’s comments about The Many Saints of Newark, fans of The Sopranos can expect a timely narrative that’s more about society as a whole than the inner workings of a mafia organization. Given the success of Jordan Peele’s Get Out, and the early hype for his upcoming drama Us, there’s plenty to explore about race and identity in modern American cinema, with some narratives being especially impactful thanks to skilled and thoughtful filmmakers behind the camera.