Nearly a year after The Many Saints of Newark, the prequel to The Sopranos, was announced, the film has finally cast its young Tony Soprano, who was played as an adult in the original HBO series by the late James Gandolfini. Rather than capturing that familial resemblance by casting Robert Iler, who played Tony's son Anthony Soprano, Jr. on the show, The Many Saints of Newark has gone even more authentic, with Gandolfini's actual son, Michael Gandolfini, reprising his father's role in the film.
According to Deadline, the first to report the news, the filmmakers searched far and wide for their young Tony before Michael won the part, following an "extensive audition process." Insiders told the outlet that not only does the younger Gandolfini understand the character better than anyone, but he also has great screen presence and a "mastery of Tony's mannerisms"—and his uncanny resemblance to his father certainly doesn't hurt. Gandolfini has previously written, produced, and starred in the 2015 short film Flower, had a five-episode arc on The Deuce as Joey Dwyer, and had a small background part as a bus boy in Ocean's 8.
"It's a profound honor to continue my dad's legacy while stepping into the shoes of a young Tony Soprano," Gandolfini said in a statement to Deadline. "I'm thrilled that I'm going to have the opportunity to work with [The Sopranos creator] David Chase and the incredible company of talent he has assembled for The Many Saints of Newark."
The prequel will reportedly take place during the time of the Newark riots of the 1960s, during which the New Jersey city's black and Italian-American communities went head-to-head for control of the city. The story will focus on Dickie Moltisanti, played by Alessandro Nivola, who was deceased and referenced only by name on The Sopranos. Dickie will serve as something of a mentor to Tony, as the young Soprano's father, Johnny Boy, is beginning to lead Tony into following his own footsteps as a leader in the world of organized crime.
The Many Saints of Newark will also star Vera Farmiga, Jon Bernthal, Billy Magnussen, and Corey Stoll. The film will be co-written and produced by Chase and Lawrence Konner, and directed by Alan Taylor, who helmed several episodes of The Sopranos, winning an Emmy for one in 2007.
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