‘The Many Saints of Newark’ Has New Jersey in its Veins

What took place before Mafia boss Tony Soprano ruled North Jersey? That’s the question the much-anticipated Sopranos prequel film aims to answer.

The cast of "The Many Saints of Newark"
"The Many Saints of Newark" stars (from left) Billy Magnussen as Paulie Walnuts, Jon Bernthal as Johnny Soprano, Corey Stoll as Junior Soprano, John Magaro as Silvio Dante, Ray Liotta as “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti and Alessandro Nivola as Dickie Moltisanti. Courtesy of Barry Wetcher

What took place before Mafia boss Tony Soprano ruled North Jersey? That’s the question The Many Saints of Newark, the much-anticipated prequel film to The Sopranos, aims to answer. The film, originally scheduled for release in September 2020, but delayed three times by the Covid-19 pandemic, finally hits theaters on September 22 in New York and on October 1 nationwide. It will be available on HBO Max for the month of October.

Although James Gandolifni, who portrayed Tony in the hit TV series, died in 2013, his son, Michael, steps into his iconic role in the new Mob drama as the teenage Tony. Growing up in the 1960s, Tony idolizes his uncle Dickie Moltisanti. Despite Dickie’s best efforts to shield Tony from the seedy and violent world of organized crime, the impressionable Tony—whose father is in prison for much of the film—can’t help but be influenced by his surroundings. (Dickie’s fictional son, Christopher, portrayed in the original Sopranos by Michael Imperioli, would become a key figure in Tony’s crime organization.)

Michael Gandolfini, the real-life son of the late James Gandolfini, plays a young Tony Soprano, while Alessandro Nivola portrays his uncle Dickie Moltisanti. Courtesy of Barry Wetcher

The new film, like the original series, has serious New Jersey connections. They start with producer David Chase, the Clifton- and North Caldwell-bred creator of the original series. Then there’s the New Jersey backdrop—The Many Saints is set against the background of the 1967 Newark riots.

Several key members of the cast are also Jersey, through and through.

Newark-born Ray Liotta plays both “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti, Dickie’s father, as well as Dickie’s uncle Sal, who is in prison for murder. Vera Farmiga, who was born in Clifton and raised in Irvington, plays Tony’s mother, Livia.

The original Sopranos premiered January 10, 1999, on HBO; it ran through June 10, 2007.

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