UK markets closed
  • NIKKEI 225

    28,708.58
    -546.97 (-1.87%)
     
  • HANG SENG

    26,017.53
    -118.49 (-0.45%)
     
  • CRUDE OIL

    82.62
    -0.80 (-0.96%)
     
  • GOLD FUTURES

    1,782.10
    -2.80 (-0.16%)
     
  • DOW

    35,541.28
    -68.06 (-0.19%)
     
  • BTC-GBP

    45,924.53
    -2,631.21 (-5.42%)
     
  • CMC Crypto 200

    1,498.03
    -36.62 (-2.39%)
     
  • ^IXIC

    15,199.26
    +77.58 (+0.51%)
     
  • ^FTAS

    4,102.33
    -16.45 (-0.40%)
     

'The Many Saints of Newark' director stresses Michael Gandolfini, Tony Soprano casting isn't a 'gimmick'

·6-min read

As soon as the initial trailer dropped for David Chase’s The Many Saints of Newark (released in theatres on Friday, Oct. 1), a prequel movie to HBO's hit TV show The Sopranos, all eyes were on 22-year-old Michael Gandolfini, as teen Tony Soprano, the iconic character played by his late father James Gandolfini.

For director Alan Taylor, who also directed multiple episodes of The Sopranos, he did admit that he had “a lot of apprehension” about casting the young Gandolfini in the role.

“I had a lot of apprehension, both not knowing if he could do it, because I had never seen him act before he auditioned for us,” Taylor explained. “Even more than that, I think...the emotional stakes of, can we really ask a young man to take this on and to do this, it meant he was going to have to immerse himself in his dad and find a kind of peace with doing that.”

“We were concerned that - will people think this is sort of a gimmick or something? We knew it wasn't for us, but we weren't sure how it was going to play.”

The director also shared that when the cast and crew were about to start work on the production, there was a dinner where Gandolfini thanked everyone in the room for “giving him a chance to say hello to his dad again, and goodbye again.”

“It was wrenching, in a way, but it sort of became the heart of the movie,” Taylor said. “It became clear that he wanted to do this and that meant a lot to me, that we were sort of doing the right thing by having him there.”

When thinking about how the young actor’s father would respond to his son taking on this role and the whole project as a whole, Taylor “feels pretty good” about what they’ve done with The Many Saints of Newark.

“I think he'd be glad that we did this,” the director said.

Alessandro Nivola, Michael Gandolfini and director Alan Taylor on the set of New Line Cinema and Home Box Office’s mob drama “The Many Saints of Newark,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Barry Wetcher/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
Alessandro Nivola, Michael Gandolfini and director Alan Taylor on the set of New Line Cinema and Home Box Office’s mob drama “The Many Saints of Newark,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Barry Wetcher/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)

'He didn't want to bring Tony home'

It has been well documented that the young Gandolfini, who was born the year The Sopranos premiered, had never watched the show before his work to establish the character for The Many Saints of Newark. While he did go to the set of the series as a kid, he never really saw his dad acting in the role of Tony Soprano.

“When we were together, it was my dad and me, and we would just go and wrestle...and whatever,” Gandolfini told Yahoo Canada. “What's interesting with acting is sometimes you could bring a character home with you and I think that's what he didn't want to do.”

“He didn't want to bring Tony home, he just wanted to be my dad. So I think he was just very careful to place boundaries regarding work and home life, like any industry or any job.”

Not only does Gandolfini have a striking resemblance to his father, fans of the show will be able to pick up on small mannerisms that are similar to what we saw from the character in The Sopranos, wrapped into an overall impressive performance from the young actor. 

So we're in agreement with Taylor that Gandolfini's casting isn't a "gimmick," clearly the acting skills run deep in the Gandolfini family.

Creator/writer/producer David Chase and Alessandro Nivola on the set of New Line Cinema and Home Box Office’s mob drama “The Many Saints of Newark,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Barry Wetcher/ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
Creator/writer/producer David Chase and Alessandro Nivola on the set of New Line Cinema and Home Box Office’s mob drama “The Many Saints of Newark,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Barry Wetcher/ Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)

Who is Dickie Moltisanti?

While many have dubbed this movie as a “Tony Soprano origin story,” of sorts, The Many Saints of Newark is much more than that, with the main focus actually on actor Alessandro Nivola’s character Dickie Moltisanti, the father of fan-favourite The Sopranos character Christopher Moltisanti, who was played by Michael Imperioli in the TV series.

For The Sopranos creator David Chase, the goal of The Many Saints of Newark was to make a great gangster movie, which made creating the story with Tony Soprano the lead out of the question, due to his age.

“We wanted to make a gangster movie, that was mainly our mindset, and so that kind of left young Tony out because he was just a kid,” Chase explained to Yahoo Canada.

At the core of the story is the close uncle-nephew relationship between Dickie and Tony, and the impact that bond ultimately has on the trajectory of Tony’s life.

“We had this character named Dickie Moltisanti at hand who had always interested me, as to who he really was, and we set out to explore who he really was,” Chase said. “It's my feeling that, and he was created this way, that he is not as intellectually forward as Tony Soprano.”

“I think Tony Soprano was a much more reflective guy, that was probably his failing as a mob leader.”

Michael Gandolfini as Teenage Tony Soprano and Alessandro Nivola as Dickie Moltisanti in New Line Cinema and Home Box Office’s mob drama “The Many Saints of Newark,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Barry Wetcher/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
Michael Gandolfini as Teenage Tony Soprano and Alessandro Nivola as Dickie Moltisanti in New Line Cinema and Home Box Office’s mob drama “The Many Saints of Newark,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Barry Wetcher/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)

'Damn, we better not screw this up'

Nivola explained to Yahoo Canada that he and Gandolfini spent a lot of time together to establish that relationship between Dickie and Tony.

“We started getting together and meeting up at this cafe in downtown Brooklyn...and we would just sit around and talk, and not even really about the movie so much, but just getting to know each other,” he said. “Then we would watch Dirty Harry together.”

“I think we had really bonded over the fact that we both had a lot of pressure on us in different ways. He was taking on this iconic role that his dad had played and all the expectation around that, and I was being offered a kind of breakthrough role, after 25 years of making movies. We both just felt like ‘damn, we better not screw this up,’ and I think that feeling kind of really drew us closer.”

Nivola said that connection was particularly important because Chase’s writing is, as he describes, “unsentimental,” so having a natural, real affection for each other, that translates on screen, was an important part of the storytelling.

“These characters are never going to tell each other they love each other and so, you just have to kind of sense that and feel that, without us having to play it,” he explained. “We were lucky to have that time.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting