Ray Liotta is confirmed to appear in the upcoming The Sopranos prequel movie The Many Saints of Newark, but it’s not yet clear which character he will be playing. His appearance in The Many Saints of Newark trailer gives a few hints, but production has remained quiet about Liotta’s character name and role. There are some notable figures from the established history of the DiMeo crime family that Liotta could be playing, any of which would have a major impact on the movie.
The Many Saints of Newark promises to give Sopranos fans a glimpse at characters that they have only heard about in the past. Alessandro Nivola will play Christopher Moltisanti’s father Dickie, who will take a central role as a mentor to a young Tony Soprano. Tony’s legendary father Johnny will also appear, portrayed by Jon Bernthal. In addition to the young Tony, there will also be younger versions of characters like Junior, Livia, Silvio Dante, and Paulie Walnuts.
Liotta’s casting in The Many Saints of Newark raised eyebrows because of the actor’s history in mafia stories. Liotta starred as Henry Hill in Goodfellas, one of the most influential crime movies of all time, and voiced Tommy Vercetti in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. More recently, Liotta played vicious divorce lawyer Jay Marotta in Marriage Story, getting praise from critics for his supporting performance. Liotta appears only at the end of the Many Saints of Newark trailer. His character has very short hair and is talking to Dickie Moltisanti in what seems to be a prison visit. Given Liotta’s stature as an actor, it seems likely his character is significant. There are a number of major characters from The Sopranos backstory who Liotta could be portraying, but the answer may have already been revealed.
“Hollywood” Dick Moltisanti
On the Talking Sopranos podcast Michael Imperioli, who played Christopher Moltisanti in the original Sopranos series and hosts the podcast, mentions that Liotta is playing “Hollywood” Dick Moltisanti, Dickie’s father and Christopher’s grandfather. This is a new character who was never mentioned in the original series. Mob membership runs in the family, so it would make sense that Dickie’s father would be involved in the DiMeo crime family, and he could have a position of great influence in Dickie’s life. This casting also suggests that the Sopranos prequel will tell us about Christopher as much as it tells us against Tony. The film title, The Many Saints of Newark, could also be a reference to the importance of the Moltisanti (or “Many Saints”) family in the story.
Liotta’s character is heard offering advice to Dickie in the trailer, including to stay out of his “nephew” Tony’s life, which would make sense if he was playing Dickie’s father. Imperioli is still very much connected with The Sopranos, so his podcast is a credible source of information, making “Hollywood” Dick the most likely character for Liotta. But there’s still no official confirmation, and there’s a chance Imperioli misspoke or was misinformed, so it’s worth examining the other roles Liotta could be portraying.
Ercole “Eckley” DiMeo
One of the major characters currently unaccounted for in The Many Saints of Newark is Ercole DiMeo, the founder and official boss of the DiMeo crime family. By the time of The Sopranos, Ercole has been in prison for a long time and is boss in name only, having no real influence over the family. However, he didn’t go to prison until 1995, meaning that he should still be in charge during the time period of The Many Saints of Newark.
If it weren’t for Imperioli’s comments, DiMeo would seem to be the best candidate for Liotta’s role. “Uncle Eckley” was a mentor to both Johnny and Tony Soprano, which could bring him into conflict with Dickie. It would also make sense for Eckley to be giving Dickie instructions from jail, as Liotta seems to be doing in the trailer. It currently hasn’t been confirmed whether or not DiMeo will be appearing in the Sopranos prequel, whether played by Liotta or someone else, but his absence would be unusual.
Carmine would be the head of the Lupertazzi crime family during this period, having taken over the New York mafia organization in 1960. In The Sopranos, Carmine appears as an old man who still retains a grip on his family, played by Tony Lip. He would have been around 50 during the story of The Many Saints of Newark, putting Liotta in the right age range to portray him. Carmine also went to jail on racketeering charges in 1970, meaning that it might make sense for him to be interacting with Dickie in prison if the Sopranos prequel’s timeframe extends into the 1970s.
While it would be intriguing to see Ray Liotta as a younger Carmine, this option seems less likely than the above characters. There isn’t much evidence in the original series to suggest that Carmine had a connection to Dickie or a young Tony, and he would be less likely to be a mentor figure to someone in another family. Venturing into the New York underworld may be beyond the scope of a movie that seems like it will be rooted in the setting and history of New Jersey. But like Eckley, it would still be interesting to see Carmine at the height of his powers when The Many Saints of Newark releases this fall.
It’s also perfectly possible that Liotta could play a new character in the Sopranos prequel, one who wasn’t the subject of the modern-day characters’ reminiscences. He could be a capo in the DiMeo or Lupertazzi families, or someone not directly connected to the mob at all. The Many Saints of Newark looks to flesh out the 1960s and 70s era of the mob beyond the nostalgic ideas of Tony and his crew, and Liotta’s character, whether Dick Moltisanti or someone unknown, could be someone everyone preferred to forget.
The casting of The Many Saints of Newark has seemed note-perfect so far, from Vera Farmiga stepping in as Livia to Michael Gandolfini playing the role his father created. Ray Liotta seems like a natural addition to the cast and, whether he plays Dick Moltisanti as Imperioli has suggested or someone else, fans of mafia stories will definitely be happy to see him.