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:
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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.
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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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