Sopranos creator and The Many Saints of Newark writer David Chase had no hesitancy about casting James Gandolfini’s son Michael to play young Tony Soprano. Gandolfini made the character of angst-ridden suburban-dad mob boss Tony Soprano iconic on the original HBO series, which ran from 1999 to 2007. Sadly the Emmy-winning actor passed away in 2013.
Now almost fifteen years after The Sopranos ended with one the most ambiguous and arguably infuriating finales in TV history, series creator Chase is ready to revisit the show’s world for a prequel movie. The Many Saints of Newark stars Michael Gandolfini as a high school-aged Tony Soprano, in a story about the budding gangster’s coming-of-age amid the racial strife of Newark. The movie also stars John Bernthal as Tony’s father Johnny Boy, Vera Farmiga as his domineering mother Livia, Alessandro Nivola as Tony’s beloved uncle Dickie Moltisanti, Cory Stoll as Uncle June, Billy Magnusson as Paulie Walnuts and John Magaro as Silvio Dante.
Fans have already gotten their first look at the younger Gandolfini as the younger version of Tony Soprano via trailers. While the younger Gandolfini certainly looks the part, there’s still reason to be concerned about his ability to embody Tony Soprano, given the huge shoes he has to fill. But one person who doesn’t seem worried about this is Chase himself, who told Vanity Fair he didn’t balk at all when it came to giving the younger Gandolfini the gig in The Many Saints of Newark. He said:
“I looked at some tape, to see if he could put one word in front of the other. But no, I had no hesitancy. I just had this sneaking suspicion that the DNA was going to be the same.”
Gandolfini may not be hugely experienced but he does have a prior acting resume to lean on, including a prominent role in HBO’s series The Deuce, as well as roles in the movies Cherry and Ocean’s 8. He’s also set to appear in the upcoming Ari Aster mystery project Disappointment Blvd. and the action thriller The Gray Man starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans. But with all that said, nothing could be quite the same as taking on an iconic role like Tony Soprano, and doing so in the shadow of one’s own father to boot.
Sopranos fans will obviously get their chance to judge Gandolfini’s performance when The Many Saints of Newark finally arrives. Given how loyal man those fans are, there are bound to be some harsh judgments not only about Gandolfini’s performance but the movie as a whole. On the other hand, it’s been so long since The Sopranos went off the air, perhaps fans will simply be so grateful to live in this world again that they’ll tone down their criticism. Chase’s endorsement of Gandolfini certainly helps calm any concerns fans might have going in, but of course Chase is unlikely to say anything negative about his star with the movie yet to release, so who knows what he really thinks. It’s yet to be seen if The Many Saints of Newark and its young Tony ultimately build upon the legacy of The Sopranos, or only end up making fans wish the show’s famous cut-to-black had really been the end.