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‘Sopranos’ Prequel Film Finds Young Tony: Michael Gandolfini Is Chip Off Old Block

Deadline logo Deadline 1/22/2019 Mike Fleming Jr
a man wearing a suit and tie © Charles Sykes/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

EXCLUSIVE: The Sopranos creator David Chase has found his Tony Soprano. Michael Gandolfini has been set to play the future New Jersey organized crime family boss in The Many Saints of Newark, the feature prequel to Chase’s groundbreaking TV series The Sopranos that Alan Taylor is directing for New Line.

He is the son of James Gandolfini, who originated the iconic role of Tony Soprano and won multiple Emmys, SAG Awards and a Golden Globe in an anti-hero role that made possible later bad guy turns like Bryan Cranston’s in Breaking Bad and future HBO series including Deadwood, Westworld and Game of Thrones. He died in 2013.

The late actor’s son has been gaining experience and had a breakout turn on the HBO drama series The Deuce. His resemblance to Tony Soprano is uncanny. The filmmakers engaged in an extensive audition process to find the young Tony before Gandolfini won the role. Insiders said that his screen presence, mastery of Tony’s mannerisms, coupled with his resemblance to the elder Gandolfini made him the standout choice for the role because no one there understood the character better, the insiders said.

The Sopranos - 1990s James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano © Snap Stills/Rex Images The Sopranos - 1990s James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano He joins Alessandro Nivola, Vera Farmiga, Jon Bernthal, Billy Magnussen, and Corey Stoll in the ensemble drama that is set in the era of the ’60s Newark riots, when African Americans and Italians of that city were at each others throats. It was especially lethal among gangsters from each group. The story focuses on Dickie Moltisanti (Nivola), a mentor to young Tony as his own father, Johnny Boy, was grooming his son a pathway to organized crime prominence. There are expected to be call backs and shout outs to numerous other series characters in the film, which is set in the earlier time period.

“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 David Chase and the incredible company of talent he has assembled for The Many Saints of Newark.”

The Sopranos just celebrated the 20th anniversary of its launch and is widely regarded as one of the greatest drama series ever, running six seasons from 1999-2007 and winning 21 Prime Time Emmy Awards, five Golden Globes and Peabody Awards for its first two seasons.

Chase wrote the feature script with series cohort Lawrence Konner, and both are producing. Nicole Lambert (Chase Films) and Marcus Viscidi are the exec producers.

Taylor directed nine Sopranos episodes, and has done eps of Game of Thrones also and Thor: the Dark World. He won the Emmy in 2007 for The Sopranos episode Kennedy and Heidi.

Gandolfini is repped by WME and Brookside Artist Management.

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