The upcoming The Sopranos prequel movie, The Many Saints of Newark, will star Christopher Moltisanti’s father Dickie, an enigmatic figure in the original series. Dickie is long dead by the time the original The Sopranos series begins, but his influence is widely felt, and the series provides a good amount of information about who Dickie is, and in particular how he died. Based on its trailer, The Many Saints of Newark will provide a fuller image of the character, and shed light on how accurate the adult Tony’s recollections of the past really were.
The Sopranos began in 1999, with Tony Soprano approaching middle age and a century of history behind the DiMeo crime family of which he is a part. The history of their ancestors, and the almost-mythical image of the mafia, loom over the very ordinary and insecure characters of David Chase’s series. This includes Christopher Moltisanti, who struggles to escape the shadow of his father Dickie while desperate to follow him into the mafia.
The Many Saints of Newark is the first story set in the Sopranos universe in the 15 years since the finale of the original series, with original creator David Chase on board. The story is set in the 1970s as a teenage Tony Soprano is at a crossroads between living a normal life and entering his father’s world of organized crime. The movie will feature original actor James Gandolfini’s son Michael as a young Tony, as well as a host of returning Sopranos characters, but from the trailer, it seems that Dickie Moltisanti will also be a major part of the story. Dickie Moltisanti will be played by Alessandro Nivola in The Many Saints of Newark. Most of the information that audiences already have about him comes from stories and dialogue in The Sopranos, mostly from older members of the Jersey crew like Tony, Paulie, and Silvio Dante. While these men are hardly reliable narrators, they do give us some crucial information and context about Dickie going into the upcoming prequel.
How Dickie Fits Into the Sopranos Universe
As in many mafia stories, family ties determine everything in The Sopranos, and Dickie Moltisanti is firmly nested in the interlocking families that make up the DiMeo crime organization. He was a cousin of Carmela Soprano and married Joanne Blundetto, who was herself the cousin of Tony Blundetto, portrayed in The Sopranos by Reservoir Dogs’ Steve Buscemi, and the niece of Pat Blundetto, who appears several times in The Sopranos as a retired gangster and friend of Junior Soprano. The Soprano, Moltisanti, and Blundetto families are intertwined in the mafia world going back generations.
Dickie Moltisanti served in the US Navy during the Vietnam War, and also did time in prison during the 1970s, around the same time frame as The Many Saints of Newark will take place. He is also said to have struggled with alcohol and drugs. Based on this timeline, it seems likely he wasn’t around for much of Christopher’s life even prior to his death. Despite this absence, or maybe because of it, Christopher grew up idolizing his dead father, an influence that can be seen in multiple episodes of The Sopranos.
The bond between Tony and Dickie, suggested in the trailer for The Many Saints of Newark, helps to account for why Tony and Christopher have a close relationship in The Sopranos despite not being related by blood. Tony lionizes Dickie, telling stories about him taking on a crew from New England. Certainly Tony seems to be more involved in Christopher’s life than his mother, whose distance may also be explainable by the way in which Dickie died. In a season 2 episode, Christopher finds a rare photo of Dickie in his Navy uniform, but his mother is disinterested and encourages Christopher to move away from his father’s memory. A later episode in The Sopranos season 4 further explains this relationship by shedding light on how Dickie died.
How Dickie Died
In the season 4 premiere, “For All Debts Public and Private”, Tony aims to get closer to Christopher by giving him the “favor” of the identity of his father’s murderer. According to Tony, Dickie’s death was the result of a feud with Jilly Ruffalo that began when the two were in prison together. Jiffy killed Dickie’s cellmate, and in retaliation Dickie gouged out his eye. In Tony’s account, Ruffalo hired a police detective named Barry Haydu to kill Dickie.
When Christopher seeks out Haydu for revenge, the now-retired police officer pleads that he didn’t know Dickie and had nothing to do with his killing. Christopher ultimately shoots him. Before his death, the words “I’m sorry” are repeated, but it’s unclear whether this is Haydu confessing, a desperate attempt to get Christopher to let him go, or the words of a TV program airing in the background. As with many aspects of The Sopranos, the truth about Dickie’s death remains ambiguous throughout the series.
Along with confirming theories about Tony’s relationship with his mother, The Many Saints of Newark could clarify how much of Tony’s description of Dickie’s death was truthful. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time Tony manipulates or lies to someone close to him, and offering up an old police lieutenant could be a way for Tony to settle an unrelated grudge while bringing Christopher closer to him and covering up more uncomfortable facts about Dickie’s death. On the other hand, the trailer for The Many Saints of Newark does seem to confirm many aspects of Tony’s story.
Dickie’s Role in The Many Saints of Newark
Director Alan Taylor has confirmed in an IGN interview that Dickie will be the central character of the prequel film, despite the heavy presence of the young Tony Soprano in the film’s marketing. The trailer shows Dickie acting as a mentor figure to Tony, teaching him how to steal and, just as crucially in the world of The Sopranos, how to assuage his guilt. The trailer, and the information we have from the series, suggest that Dickie was a mentor to Tony just as Tony would later be to Christopher.
The trailer also suggests that the movie will depict Dickie’s stint in prison, and the events leading up to his death. One clip depicts Dickie throwing a man onto a table and grabbing a drill, which could be the incident where he takes Ruffalo’s eye out. A currently-unnamed character played by Leslie Odom comments that Moltisanti “has to die.” These clues suggest that at least some of what Tony told Christopher about his father’s death was true.
Taylor also suggests that Tony’s infamous mother Livia, played by Vera Farmiga in Many Saints, had feelings for Dickie, which casts many of the series’ relationships in a new light. Dickie could also have an antagonistic relationship with Ray Liotta’s currently unnamed character, who is heard at the end of the trailer telling Dickie to stay away from Tony. The Many Saints of Newark will build on what we already know about the crucial, but until now absent, character of Dickie Moltisanti.