‘Hamilton’ Star Leslie Odom Jr Joins ‘Sopranos’ Prequel ‘The Many Saints of Newark’

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“Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr. has joined the cast of the “Sopranos” prequel film, “The Many Saints of Newark,” an individual with knowledge of the project told TheWrap.

Odom’s character details were not revealed, but he’s in line for a starring role in the project. He joins a cast that includes Alessandro Nivola, Vera Farmiga, Ray Liotta, Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnussen, John Magaro and James Gandolfini’s son Michael Gandolfini as a young Tony Soprano.

“The Many Saints of Newark,” which has consistently been the title despite some confusion over a reported working title, “Newark,” will open via Warner Bros. and New Line on Sept. 25, 2020.

Also Read: ‘The Sopranos’ Prequel Movie: Everything We Know So Far About ‘The Many Saints of Newark’

Alan Taylor is directing from a script by “Sopranos” creator David Chase and writer Lawrence Konner. Both Chase and Konner are also producing. Nicole Lambert (Chase Films), Marcus Viscidi, and Michael Disco (The Disco Factory) are executive producers on “Newark.”

“The Many Saints of Newark” is set in the 1960s during the Newark riots, five days of violence in the New Jersey city sparked by the beating of a black man by white police officers. It was especially lethal among African American and Italian American gangsters involved in the fighting — 26 people died and more than 700 people were injured during the riots.

More specifically, it follows the life of Dickie Moltisanti (Nivola), a frequently mentioned character in “The Sopranos” but one who was never seen in the original series, including flashbacks.

Also Read: New Line Exec Michael Disco Exits to Launch The Disco Factory, Will Executive-Produce ‘Sopranos’ Prequel ‘Many Saints of Newark’

Some of Odom Jr.’s film roles include “Murder on the Orient Express” and “Red Tails,” but he has a number of projects awaiting release, including the sci-fi “Only” opposite Freida Pinto, the Harriet Tubman biopic “Harriet,” John Ridley’s sci-fi “Needle in a Timestack,” and finally a project directed by Sia called “Music.”

Odom, Jr. is repped by Creative Artists Agency, Untitled Entertainment and Jackoway, Austen, Tyerman, Wertheimer, Mandelbaum, Morris, Bernstein, Trattner & Klein.

News of Odom Jr.’s casting was first reported by Deadline.

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‘The Sopranos’ Prequel Movie: Everything We Know So Far About ‘Newark’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

The planned prequel film to “The Sopranos” might not be “Star Wars: Episode IX,” but many of the details for this highly-anticipated film have been almost as secretive.

At the very least though, it has a potential working title: “Newark.” This is a project that boasts “The Sopranos” creator David Chase and an already impressive cast.

Originally titled “The Many Saints of Newark,” New Line Cinema is planning to release the film on Sept. 25, 2020. Here’s what else we know:

Also Read: ‘Sopranos’ Prequel Gets Fall 2020 Release and Working Title ‘Newark’

Firstly, Chase wrote the film with Lawrence Konner, a staff writer on “The Sopranos” who received the sole writing credit on three individual episodes. They are also producing the film.

Alan Taylor is directing “Newark.” He won an Emmy in 2007 for directing the Season 6 episode “Kennedy and Heidi.” More recently, Taylor has been behind some of the stand-out episodes of “Game of Thrones,” including “Beyond the Wall,” which was nominated for an Emmy in the show’s the seventh season.

As for the cast, Alessandro Nivola is starring alongside Vera Farmiga, Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Ray Liotta, John Magaro, Billy Magnussen and Michael Gandolfini, the son of the late James Gandolfini, who is portraying a young Tony Soprano.

Nivola, known for films such as “American Hustle,” “A Most Violent Year” and “Selma,” will play Richard “Dickie” Moltisanti. If that name sounds familiar, it is because Moltisanti loomed heavily over the arc of “The Sopranos,” but in name only.

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Dickie was Carmela Soprano’s cousin, a Vietnam veteran and a foot soldier in the Soprano crew. He was killed when Christopher was very young, and we know of his past because Tony would frequently show his protective, paternal instincts for Christopher and shared anecdotes with him about Christopher’s late father.

He was always a “stand up guy,” Tony would say. And the show even devoted an entire episode arc in which Tony helps Chrissy avenge his father’s death. As a way of slowly nudging Chrissy up the family hierarchy, Tony tells Chrissy his father’s killer was a recently retired detective, and he then delivers the presumed killer for Chrissy to interrogate him.

The initial title, “The Many Saints of Newark,” was also fitting as “Moltisanti” literally means “many saints” in Italian.

Also Read: Ray Liotta in Talks to Join ‘Sopranos’ Prequel Film ‘The Many Saints of Newark’

The film is set in Newark in the 1960s when around the time of the Newark riots. Dubbed “The Long Hot Summer of 1967,” the Newark riots were one of 159 race riots that swept the country that year. These riots ignited when Newark Police officers arrested and beat an African American taxi driver. It sparked four days of looting, violence and property destruction in which 26 people died and hundreds more were injured.

“The Sopranos” show flashed back to this time the “Down Neck” episode when Tony reflected on a point in his youth when Johnny Boy Soprano and a young Uncle Junior still ran the streets.

Oddly in this flashback, Tony is only a kid, whereas Michael Gandolfini (who plays Christopher Multisanti) is a young adult, so there’s the possibility that the film ends up jumping beyond the 1960s, possibly to when Dickie is killed.

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“The Sopranos” was a groundbreaking show for the ways in which it touched on themes of addiction, depression and race. Many of the mobsters on “The Sopranos” showed their racist sides and spoke fondly of the days prior to the Civil Rights era. Exploring their origins in this period will show how their personalities and prejudices became what they were in the HBO series.

As with any David Chase property, whether it’s “The Sopranos” or his ’60s rock film “Not Fade Away” (which also starred John Magaro), you can bet that “Newark” will be far more than just your average period piece.

The working title “Sopranos” prequel “Newark” opens Sept. 25, 2020.

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Ray Liotta in Talks to Join ‘Sopranos’ Prequel Film ‘The Many Saints of Newark’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Ray Liotta is in negotiations to star in “The Many Saints of Newark,” the “Sopranos” prequel film being set up at New Line, an individual with knowledge of the project told TheWrap.

No details about Liotta’s character were revealed, but he joins a cast that includes Alessandro Nivola, Vera Farmiga, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnussen, Jon Bernthal and James Gandolfini’s son Michael Gandolfini, who is portraying a young Tony Soprano in the film.

Alan Taylor is directing the project based on a script by “Sopranos” creator David Chase and Lawrence Konner. Chase and Konner will also produce the prequel film. Nicole Lambert, on behalf of Chase Films, and Marcus Viscidi are executive producing.

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“The Many Saints of Newark” is set in the 1960s during the Newark riots, five days of violence in the New Jersey city sparked by the beating of a black man by white police officers. It was especially lethal among African American and Italian American gangsters involved in the fighting — 26 people died and more than 700 people were injured during the riot.

Liotta continues a tradition of actors from Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” appearing on “The Sopranos”: Lorraine Bracco, Michael Imperioli and Frank Vincent, also appeared at various times on “The Sopranos.”

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Liotta recently starred in the NBC series “Shades of Blue” opposite Jennifer Lopez, and he’s next set to star in an untitled film from Noah Baumbach alongside Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver and Laura Dern. He’ll also appear in “El Tonto,” a comedy that’s the directorial debut of “It’s Always Sunny” star Charlie Day.

Liotta is repped by Gersh and Untitled Entertainment.

Deadline was first to report.

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Jon Bernthal and Vera Farmiga to Join ‘Sopranos’ Prequel ‘The Many Saints of Newark’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Jon Bernthal and Vera Farmiga are in final negotiations to join the cast of the prequel to “The Sopranos,” with the working title “The Many Saints of Newark,” an individual with knowledge of the project tells TheWrap.

Bernthal and Farmiga join the cast opposite Alessandro Nivola, who is playing Dickie Moltisanti in the feature film. Both Bernthal and Farmiga’s character details are under wraps.

“The Many Saints of Newark” is set in the era of the Newark riots in the 1960s, when the African-Americans and the Italians of Newark were at each other’s throats, and when among the gangsters of each group, it became especially lethal. While other plot details are vague, the film is expected to include appearances from several key characters from “The Sopranos.”

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“The Sopranos” series creator David Chase co-wrote the script with Lawrence Konner. Alan Taylor (“Thor: The Dark World,” “Game of Thrones”) is directing the film. Chase and Konner will also produce. Nicole Lambert on behalf of Chase Films and Marcus Viscidi are executive producing.

Farmiga recently wrapped production on Ava DuVernay’s Netflix limited series, “Central Park Five,” and she’ll next be seen in “Godzilla: King of Monsters” and “Captive State.” She’s repped by CAA, Authentic Talent, ID and Peikoff Mahan

Bernthal’s upcoming projects include James Mangold’s untitled Ford vs Ferrari film and he is about to premiere in the second season of “The Punisher.” He is represented by WME, Attorney David Weber and Narrative PR.

Variety was first to report.

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‘Disobedience’ Review: Rachel Weisz & Rachel McAdams Shine In Superb Melodrama

Read on: Deadline.

Disobedience thrives in what the studios used to turn out regularly in the golden era of so-called women’s pictures. It’s a straight-up melodrama disguised in the trappings of art house fare. But, as I say in my video review (click the link…

‘Disobedience’ Film Review: Two Rachels Don’t Make a Right in Unfocused Drama

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A clumsily assembled film can remind us that every narrative feature is like a Jenga tower, with each block building on the foundational ones under it and faulty, minor-seeming pieces poised to upset a chunk of the whole. If it were an edifice, “Disobedience” — about repressed Sapphic desire in the Orthodox Jewish community — would stand tall but wobbly, its hollows more conspicuous than its frame.

Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio, who won the 2018 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award for the transgender drama “A Fantastic Woman,” directs this spotty adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s debut novel, set in the same London suburb where the author, a former Orthodox Jew, grew up. (Lelio co-wrote the script with playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz, who co-penned “Ida,” 2015’s Polish winner in the same Oscar category).

With Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams starring as its furtive, inflamed lovers, “Disobedience” has pedigree to spare. But the result feels wonky and lopsided, as if several crucial scenes were left behind on the cutting-room floor. Other elements feel just off enough to distract from the gloomy, unsettled mood, like Weisz’s black-sheep character’s cutting critiques of Orthodox femininity and the actresses’ not-quite-crackling chemistry (which is watered down further by a, let’s say, unusual act during their extensive sex scene).

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Among other things, “A Fantastic Woman” is a study of the spaces where its protagonist felt either at ease or fiercely unwelcome. “Disobedience” is one too, as Weisz’s Ronit, the photographer daughter of a London rabbi, returns home after trading Orthodox Judaism for New York years ago. The film’s first great scene takes place in the kitchen of her deceased father’s house, where she catches up with one of the few members of the community who’ll still talk to her: her dad’s surrogate son Dovid (Alessandro Nivola, who best embodies the charged restraint that characterizes the picture’s early tone.)

Dovid is soft of voice and kind in demeanor: He invites the outcast Ronit to stay at his house almost immediately. But he’s stiffly withholding, too, especially when Ronit half-flirtily asks him who he married. Not that it matters, since all Orthodox women are clones of one another, Ronit implies, giving no indication that she thinks any differently of Dovid’s wife, the dutiful, modesty-wigged Esti (McAdams in a shaky British accent). The two women make one another bristle, so when they later hungrily kiss in Ronit’s childhood home, resuming the relationship they started as teenagers, it’s as much of a shock as it would have been to the rabbi: No one could have expected this.

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Ronit is dealt a series of blows by her family post-mortem: Her father’s obituary says he died childless, and his will reflects their extreme estrangement. An uncle blames Ronit for not nursing him through his final days, and when she says she didn’t know he was ailing, the relative indicts her for not staying by the rabbi’s side — the kind of intergenerational back-and-forth that feels familiarly unwinnable. But we learn precious little about Ronit’s relationship with her father beyond her ostracism and the ensuing disgrace, which renders her grief distant and perfunctory.

Lelio just might be more attuned to the ways that individuals are impacted by social systems than to character arcs. Ronit and Esti’s affair is discovered almost immediately by the close-knit community, and we see how all the players in their love triangle bear the costs, albeit not equally, of acquiescing to patriarchal demands.

Ronit arrived in London a mostly free woman, but her continued horror at the life she would have led — trapped in a loveless marriage, then committing suicide — makes her a persona non grata, especially among other Orthodox women. Esti was promised a “cure” for her queerness, but now realizes that the price may have been too high.

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Even Dovid suffers, his well-intentioned willingness to maintain order creating little earthquakes beneath his feet. Nivola quietly steals the picture by being impossible to look away from; Dovid presents the film’s most intense suspense, the young rabbi torn between rage and understanding, violence and decency, as he confronts unruly female behavior under his own roof.

I wish I’d been as rapt by Ronit and Esti’s romance, but enough pages feel ripped from the book about their relationship (including why Esti gives their love story the ending that she does) that I kept wondering what I was missing. What came through more distinctly than love was fear, as each character contemplates an uncertain future shaped by priorities they had never anticipated. Disobeying outside authorities can be difficult; disobeying the desires of the heart, impossible.



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Where’s the James Cameron of Virtual Reality to Take Medium Mainstream?

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Numerous A-list movie directors have been out on a date with virtual reality, but no Hollywood filmmaker has stepped up to put a ring it.

Not the way James Cameron did with modern digital 3-D thanks to his $2 billion-grossing 2009 fantasy blockbuster “Avatar.” It was a watershed filmmaking moment that enhanced his brand so significantly, we still associate him with the technology despite almost a decade of delays on four planned “Avatar” sequels.

Where are the visionaries who will storm in and bring full, feature-length immersive stories? Where is VR’s James Cameron?

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So far, only a smattering of directors such as Alejandro Inarritu, Kathryn Bigelow, Ridley Scott and Jon Favreau have dabbled in the space with shorts and narrative-gaming hybrids. And VR has attracted even fewer A-list actors.

One challenge in landing top filmmakers is how the the medium itself explodes linear storytelling — the sort that auteurs have learned to master. In traditional movies, directors drive you through the story, cinematographers tell you where to look and writers tell you what you should feel. In a virtual reality headset, where users control the story and frame of reference, all bets are off.

Steven Spielberg signaled the challenge before he signed on to direct “Ready Player One,” an adaptation of Ernest Cline’s best-selling novel about a teen in a VR treasure hunt. “We’re moving into a dangerous medium with virtual reality,” he said at a press conference at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. “The only reason I say it is dangerous is because it gives the viewer a lot of latitude not to take direction from the storytellers but make their own choices of where to look.”

Also Read: Why Hollywood Studios Are Slow to Embrace Virtual Reality

Given the cinematic anxieties of Spielberg and traditional auteurs, the true innovations in VR storytelling may have to come from younger generations, including those who grow up with the possibilities of the technology.

“There’s going to be a new breed of producer, director and writer that come up organically in this medium,” said Any Vick, who runs STX Entertainment’s VR division STXSurreal with partner Rick Rey.

“Colleges are teaching these courses now and are going to produce some amazing creators,” Vick said. “But in the interim to take people, either names from behind the camera or faces people recognize, and putting them in these headsets? That’s the differentiator.”

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Indeed, VR has plenty of advocates in academia — especially from Hollywood. Last year, USC opened the Jaunt Cinematic Virtual Reality Lab, a joint venture between the prestigious film school and Lucasfilm.

Similar top-notch programs exist at Emerson University’s splashy new Los Angeles satellite campus and an Oculus Rift-sponsored venture at New York University. Smaller classes exist across the country from Texas to Topanga Canyon.

While Spielberg may be reluctant to explore VR — except as a subject matter — Oscar winners Alejandro Inarritu (“The Revenant”) and Kathryn Bigelow (“Detroit”), four-time nominee Ridley Scott and Disney’s new golden boy Jon Favreau have all directed VR expireinces in the last year.

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Favreau, whose  2016 live-action reboot of the animated Disney movie “The Jungle Book” was hailed as technological marvel, seems to have caught a bug for experimental high-tech filmmaking.

Last year, he teamed with WEVR and Reality One to create one of the most acclaimed VR experiences to date, “Gnomes & Goblins,” in which you inhabit the many realms of magical creatures, play in their treehouses and interact in their relationships.

It’s a strong narrative, and lags in story movement are due to the user’s own control of exploring the 360-degree environment. “I liked the sense of immersion and the idea of doing something somewhere between a game and a movie,” Favreau told the New York Times.

“Jon is a gamer and appreciated what’s different about VR,” Gigi Pritzker, a producer on “Gnomes,” told TheWrap. “His approach with ‘Gnomes and Goblins’ was not, ‘Let’s do a marketing piece for a film I’m working on,’ but let’s see what’s really unique and different about this medium and create for it.”

Also Read: 15 Best Virtual Reality Experiences So Far, From ‘Hello Mars’ to ‘Gnomes & Goblins’ (Photos)

Alejandro Innaritu’s “Carne Y Arena”

Inarritu had more serious things in mind building his highly emotional VR experience “Carne Y Arena” (“Flesh and Sand”), which puts users in the shoes of refugees during an attempt to cross a U.S. border.

The experience premiered in May at a warehouse 30 minutes outside of the Cannes Film Festival, where three field guides helped users roam through the environment (so journalists and the well-heeled of the French Riviera would not bump into walls).

Inarritu’s mainstay cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki (a.k.a. Chivo,) shot “Carne y Arena,” which follows a refugee crossing the border, being chased by a helicopter, then confronting border patrol agents.

Similarly, fellow Best Director Oscar winner Bigelow used VR tech to stir emotions in “The Protectors: Walk in the Ranger’s Shoes,” about ivory poaching in Central Africa. While Bigelow had a thoughtful dialogue with Hillary Clinton after its premier last spring at the Tribeca Film Festival, the audience had to endure nearly seven minutes of mutilated elephants in vivid VR.

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“Alien: Covenant” director Ridley Scott, whose production company RSA Films has a division devoted to VR, shot a graphic but meticulous alien birth sequence called “In Utero,” which was a direct tie-in to his big summer movie from Fox. Scott has hinted at more standalone content in the future.

Actors are scarce in most studio VR content unless it’s an offshoot of films they’re leading — Michael Fassbender popped up in a VR short tied to “Assassin’s Creed.” Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern filmed a companion to their 2014 awards-bait drama “Wild.”

There is also a fascinating immersive short film starring husband-wife acting duo Emily Mortimer and Alessandro Nivola called “Broken Night.” Filmed with a 360-degree camera, head movements by the VR user determine how the story pans out. Read more about it here.

At a press conference for “Broken Night,” Mortimer likened the experience to theater acting, noting how “exposed” she and her costars felt with only each other and the gods-eye camera on set.

Perhaps it’s that excitement that appealed to Spielberg — as a subject matter anyway. The filmmaker is not directly involved in the VR experiences that Warner Bros. and HTC Vive will be creating linked to “Ready Player One,” which is due in theaters next March.

Favreau believes that as more filmmakers and creatives explore VR, the possibilities for the medium will expan”d. With VR, it’s almost like we’re still in the nickelodeon phase,” he told Fortune last year. “It’s a bit of a novelty; it’s still overwhelming. People don’t really understand it, but they react very strongly to it. So we’re really at the very early part of the learning curve.”

TheWrap’s Special Report on Virtual Reality:

Why Hollywood Studios are Slow to Embrace Virtual Reality
Hollywood’s Virtual Reality Push: How All 6 Major Studios Stack Up
Is Mobile Virtual Reality Ready for Its Closeup?
15 Best VR Experiences So Far, From ‘Hello Mars’ to ‘Gnomes & Goblins’

Related stories from TheWrap:

Is Mobile Virtual Reality Ready for Its Closeup?

Hollywood’s Virtual Reality Push: How All 6 Major Studios Stack Up

Why Hollywood Studios Are Slow to Embrace Virtual Reality

15 Best Virtual Reality Experiences So Far, From ‘Hello Mars’ to ‘Gnomes & Goblins’ (Photos)