The search to fill one of the key roles in The Many Saints of Newark — a Sopranos prequel — is over, with the film's production embracing a familiar face. James Gandolfini's son, Michael, will play Tony Soprano in the upcoming feature, carrying on his late father's legacy.
As Deadline reported, Michael was selected for the role of young Tony Soprano after a lengthy audition process. The outlet indicated that Michael ultimately beat out others for the role because of his strong screen presence — and the fact that his mannerisms and looks are strikingly similar to his father's.
Michael appears ecstatic to be working on a prequel to the show that made his father a household name. In a statement reported by Variety, the actor said:
It’s a profound honor to continue my dad’s legacy while stepping into the shoes of a young Tony Soprano ... I’m thrilled that I am 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 Many Saints of Newark is an ensemble film directed by Alan Taylor and written by The Sopranos' creator David Chase as well as Lawrence Konner. Alessandro Nivola, Vera Farmiga, Jon Bernthal, Billy Magnussen and Corey Stoll will also start alongside Michael, Deadline reported.
In speaking with Deadline on Jan. 7, 2019, Chase reflected on why he wanted to pursue a prequel that takes place in New Jersey in the 1960s, saying that his inspiration came from both a personal and creative place. As Chase told the outlet:
I was interested in Newark and life in Newark at that time. I used to go to down there every Saturday night for dinner with my grandparents. But the thing that interested me most was Tony’s boyhood. I was interested in exploring that.
Chase also noted to Deadline that he was reluctant to make a Sopranos-related film for some time because he didn't want to interfere with the legacy of the series. However, he eventually changed his mind. “I was against [the movie] for a long time and I’m still very worried about it, but I became interested in Newark, where my parents came from, and where the riots [the Newark riots of 1967] took place,” he told Deadline. " ... I started thinking about those events [the Newark riots] and organized crime, and I just got interested in mixing those two elements.”
The Sopranos ran on HBO from 1999-2007. During its run, it received an enormous number of accolades, including 111 total Emmy nominations and 21 Emmy wins, The Wrap reported. The outlet also noted that the show was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series every year that it was eligible for the nomination. For his role as Tony Soprano, Gandolfini won three of these Emmys, as well as multiple Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards and a Golden Globe, Deadline noted.
The Independent reported that The Many Saints of Newark does not yet have a release date. With the announcement of Michael's casting as Tony Soprano, many Sopranos fans are likely hoping that filming will soon get underway — and that the prequel will make it to their screens as quickly as possible.