The Sopranos Prequel
America's favorite crime family recruits one of its own
February 4, 2019
Family sticks together.
“The Many Saints of Newark,” the prequel film to HBO’s classic TV series “The Sopranos,” will feature James Gandolfini’s son in the iconic role of Tony Soprano, nearly six years after his untimely death.
Michael Gandolfini will portray a young Tony in the film that explores the mobster’s life in the 60s. Michael naturally resembles his father in a youthful manner which will ideally enable viewers to visualize what the character looked like at a young age.
The prequel will tell a new and different story than the TV series, in a different medium.
Paul Booth, Associate Professor of Media and Cinema Studies, says it is best to understand prequels as their own entity.
“Everyone will have their favorite character from the show, but the movie is its own beast, with its own characters,” said Booth. “Some people will hate it because it’s not the show, and others will love it.”
The film is set to explore life in Newark in the shadow of race riots. Although the show is in the same physical setting, the storyline of the movie will be much different, exploring Tony’s ascension in the New Jersey organized crime scene.
Kelly Eisaman, a senior at DePaul, has been a cult follower of the show for countless years and is looking forward to the film.
“The idea that we can learn more about the Soprano family is beneficial to the audience,” Eisaman said. “I think the prequel could add a new level of understanding to who Tony is and how he grew up in an organized crime setting.”
The show originally aired on HBO from 1999 to 2007. The audience that watched the show every week as it aired is now older and more removed from the show. During the show’s peak in 2002, it had an average audience of 18.2 million per episode, a nearly unheard of viewership for programming today. That number also held the title of HBO’s most watched show until 2014 when “Game of Thrones” surpassed the record, according to Entertainment Weekly. Every episode of “The Sopranos” is currently available to watch on HBO and Amazon Prime.
Will the show find a resurgence in popularity prior to the film’s release?
Eisaman thinks so. “I think [the film] would make people who have watched shows like ‘Breaking Bad’ or ‘Game of Thrones’ interested,” Eisaman said. “A new generation could be interested in a show like ‘The Sopranos,’ because of how often we see anti-heroes in modern TV.”
On the other hand, Booth thinks that the show may not draw viewership prior to the film’s release among a younger generation. “I think the producers of the film think that it will help sales and downloads of the original show, but I’m not sure if more younger people will watch it,” Booth said. “At 20 years old, it might seem a bit dated to people more used to faster and flashier television.”
Prior to the show’s release, there was not a main character in a TV series who was a troubled patriarch. This type of character was seen frequently in mafia films, such as “Goodfellas” or “The Godfather.”
Tony Soprano was a mob boss. He also was a father to two children, a husband and a troubled soul. His character exemplified what it meant be bigger than life, but the show humanized him at the same time.
“The Sopranos” set a standard for complex anti-heroes in TV. In movies, you are given a fleeting opportunity to understand a character and a story. However, in TV shows, audiences develop a much longer-lasting relationship with main characters. Viewers question the decisions characters make and stand by to witness what consequences will come. In short, viewers become emotionally invested in the characters over time.
James Gandolfini’s role as Tony Soprano set a tone for modern TV anti-heroes like Jon Hamm’s Donald Draper in “Mad Men.” Draper was a father, husband and advertising executive, who had a tendency to hop bedroom to bedroom with different women. Bryan Cranston’s turn as Walter White in “Breaking Bad,” justified death and terror, just as Tony Soprano did throughout the series.
Gandolfini created a path for this genre of television.
The show’s creator, David Chase, is one of the screenwriter’s for the film. Fans are expecting a similar tone in the movie with many excited to witness the development of young Tony Soprano to a prevalent New Jersey mobster.
Another religious follower of the show, Josh Sklare, a 2018 graduate of DePaul, says if the film is written well and has a cast with intense chemistry like the show, it may bring back “The Sopranos” in modern culture.
“The film will connect the dots the audience were never able to,” Sklare said.
Because the show did not already have a preexisting history, the film’s approach to storytelling is one in which audiences aren’t exposed to on a regular basis.
“The Sopranos” celebrated its twentieth anniversary on Jan. 10. During its six seasons, the show won 21 Primetime Emmy awards and five Golden Globes.
The film is in the process of wrapping up pre-production and is scheduled to start filming later this year.