A new entry to the Sopranos canon is a simultaneously exhilarating and worrisome prospect.
A movie continuation of the beloved Breaking Bad is a bold move, but with Newark we will see new brushstrokes added to a masterpiece.
Ending in 2007, The Sopranos put HBO on the map. It made a commercial success of DVD boxsets. It won 21 Primetime Emmys and five Golden Globes. It is regarded by so many as the greatest television show of all time. It sees the late James Gandolfini give one of history’s greatest acting performances.
So can they pull it off? Can this prequel live up to the venerated original series? Can it be a substantial addition to the Sopranos universe within the confines of a feature film runtime?
Here’s absolutely everything we know about Newark so far:
Who is on board?
Sopranos fans should be relieved to hear that key alumni of the original show are back.
David Chase, The Sopranos‘s creator, showrunner, head writer, producer (and in one episode, its voice of God) is spearheading the movie. He wrote the script with Lawrence Konner, a Sopranos staff writer who got the sole credit on three episodes.
Directing the film will be Alan Taylor, who also served as director on nine episodes of The Sopranos, along with the Mad Men pilot and Game of Thrones‘s thrilling season seven episode “Beyond the Wall”.
The executive vice president of Chase’s company Chase Films is serving as executive producer on the movie, with casting headed up by Douglas Aibel, who worked on The Grand Budapest Hotel, Manchester by the Sea, HBO’s Succession and more.
Who will star?
Alessandro Nivola is set to star in the film – you may remember him as a callous model scout in Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon, or as a domineering FBI boss in American Hustle – with Vera Farmiga and John Bernthal also cast in undisclosed roles.
This hasn’t stopped fans from theorising that Farmiga would make an excellent young Livia Soprano, Tony’s troublemaking mother who was played by Nancy Marchand in the series.
Ray Liotta, who famously starred in Goodfellas and was Chase’s preferred choice to play Tony Soprano, has also joined the cast in an undisclosed role.
Which Sopranos characters will return?
Nivola is expected to play Richard “Dickie” Moltisanti. Though the character never appeared in The Sopranos – even through flashback – Dickie loomed large over its story. He was Carmella Soprano’s cousin, and was gunned down when his son Christopher Moltisanti was still an infant. Dickie’s early death was the whole reason Tony Soprano (Gandolfini) felt so paternal toward Chrissy, and a whole episode was given over to Chrissy avenging his father’s death.
Tony told a lot of anecdotes about Dickie during the show, which Chase may have mined for the prequel. Tony’s fellow Soprano crew member was a Vietnam vet, struggled with alcohol and drug addiction (like his son), and the legend goes that he once took on a whole crew from New England. In prison, he gouged out the eye of a man who murdered his cellmate. He was, as Tony put it, a “stand up guy”.
Dickie aside, Deadline notes that the movie’s time period (which we’ll get to) leaves room for Tony’s father, Giovanni “Johnny Boy” Soprano, Tony’s mother, Livia Soprano, and Tony’s uncle, Junior Soprano aka “Uncle Junior”, to feature. It would be surprising if we didn’t also see Jackie April Sr and Carmine Lupertazzi Sr, and it’s possible Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri, Johnny Sack and Tony Blundetto.
In January 2019, Chase confirmed that a young version of Tony Soprano would appear on the show. Gandolfini’s son, Michael, has been cast in the role.
What is the setting/premise?
Newark is set amid the 1967 Newark riots, which Livia was seen watching live on television during a flashback in the episode “Down Neck”.
There were 159 race riots across America in what was dubbed “The Long Hot Summer of 1967”, tensions boiling over as African Americans continued to face discrimination in jobs and in housing. In Newark, the catalyst for the riot was one that reverberates through to the present day: the beating of a black man by police.
“That was a time when the African-Americans and the Italians of Newark were at each other’s throats,” Deadline notes, “and among the gangsters of each group, those conflicts became especially lethal.”
What might the film be about?
The great success of The Sopranos was that it was about more than just the Mafia. The mob premise was merely a way into issues of depression, addiction, morals, identity and the American Dream. Hopefully, Newark will have similar depth, and not just be a period piece.
That the Soprano family lived in a leafy suburb of New Jersey and not the state’s most populous city is likely a result of the “white flight” that occurred in Newark during the 1960s. Racist and hyper-masculine, the Soprano crew were always recalling the good old days, lamenting what they saw as the plight of the Italian American, and wrestling with their lack of a sense of home in the US. Newark will surely explore how The Sopranos‘s tough, bitter men and women came to be the way they were.
When will it be released?
Many Saints of Newark will be released 5 September 2020.