Before the release of the new movie, “The Many Saints of Newark“, Nick McIlwain had the opportunity to have a conversation with its stars, Michael Gandolfini and Alessandro Nivola, to discuss what they brought to the roles of Tony Soprano and Dickie Moltisanti, respectively. The movie is billed with the tag line “Who made Tony Soprano?”, but it really is so much more than a Tony Soprano origin story. Fans of the TV series will appreciate the multitude of connections between a younger Tony and Christopher Moltisanti’s father, Dickie, who often treated Tony like a son.
As was the case with The Sopranos, the dynamics between the characters are what drives the story, with much of the focus on father-son, mother-son and as is the case with Dickie and Tony, a pseudo father-figure and a still impressionable young man. It’s important to note that this is NOT the Tony of “The Sopranos”. However, as an actor, Michael does an incredible job of showing us how his portrayal of the role will eventually become that character HIS father, James Gandolfini, portrayed so successfully and memorably for 6 seasons.
The Sopranos was on HBO from 1999 to 2007 and in some respects, it’s hard to believe that this prequel is finally available to be seen in 2021. James Gandolfini passed away in 2013, when Michael was only 14. When The Sopranos began, Michael was just a baby. He would often go to visit the set as a child, and would even occasionally take a nap in Tony and Carmela’s bed. With time, of course, he has grown up to become an actor in his own right, but never expected to take on the role made so famous by his father. The Sopranos creator, David Chase, likes to tell the story about when he first pitched the idea to Michael of playing a younger version of Tony and Michael’s initial response was, quite succinctly, “F*ck no.” After reflecting on the concept (and after watching the first season of The Sopranos), Michael began to reconsider and eventually agreed to take on the enormous responsibility of portraying a character so well known and so beloved.
The story of actor Alessandro Nivola isn’t nearly as well known, but once you see the movie, you’ll know why he is the perfect actor to portray Dickie Moltisanti. On the tv show, Dickie’s son, Christopher had an often complicated relationship with Tony. Without giving too much away, let’s just say it didn’t end well. Dickie also had a complicated relationship with the younger Tony, and we also learn about Dickie’s relationship with his own father. Again, the depths of father-son relationships are explored in a myriad of ways. Alessandro captures the essence of a Moltisanti, but was able to create the character with a bit of a blank slate, less beholden to the concept of a character who already existed on the TV show.
In this conversation, Nick gets to chat with Alessandro and Michael about several of these concepts: the fictional relationships between Dickie and Tony, Dickie and Christopher, Tony and Christopher and the actual father-son relationship between James and Michael Gandolfini.
“The Many Saints of Newark” will be in theaters and on HBO-Max on October 1st!
Did you wonder how the movie got its name? Welp, the good folks at HBO gave us the explanation:
From New Line Cinema, “The Many Saints of Newark” is the much-anticipated feature film prequel to David Chase’s groundbreaking, award-winning HBO drama series ”The Sopranos.” Young Anthony Soprano is growing up in one of the most tumultuous eras in Newark’s history, becoming a man just as rival gangsters begin to rise up and challenge the all-powerful DiMeo crime family’s hold over the increasingly race-torn city. Caught up in the changing times is the uncle he idolizes, Dickie Moltisanti, who struggles to manage both his professional and personal responsibilities—and whose influence over his nephew will help make the impressionable teenager into the all-powerful mob boss we’ll later come to know: Tony Soprano.