James Gandolfini and ‘Sopranos’ creator David Chase | Getty Images
Fans of HBO’s The Sopranos received an early Christmas present in March 2018. That’s when news broke that David Chase, the show’s creator, had signed a deal to do a prequel feature film revolving around members of his famous, fictional crime family.
According to the Deadline exclusive, the film would go back a generation and use Newark during the riots of 1967 as a setting. Meanwhile, it would bring back some familiar characters. Uncle Junior, Tony’s father (“Johnny Boy” Soprano), and his mother Livia would all make appearances.
Die-hard fans of the show must have felt surprised. After all, Sopranos creator David Chase hinted he wouldn’t revisit the material as recently as spring 2016. But he made an exception to his rule. It came down to the quality of the idea, and less than two years later Chase decided he had the opportunity he wanted.
Chase ‘certainly wouldn’t do it as a TV show.’
While discussing a new project for HBO in April of ’16, Chase told Deadline he wouldn’t rule out revisiting The Sopranos. However, he had conditions. “I think I’ll never do it,” he said, though he admitted discussing it with figures in the industry. But television wouldn’t work for him.
“So far I’ve rejected the idea, but I certainly wouldn’t do it as a television show,” he said. That left open the door for a feature film. Yet it wouldn’t involve picking up the story beginning after the stunning Sopranos finale.
“I wouldn’t want to see that happen, no,” Chase told Entertainment Weekly in 2017, and he bristled at the idea of recasting. “Everybody’s getting older, you can’t match people anymore.”
There was only one scenario that could revive The Sopranos. “If I had a really good idea, and I thought it could be really entertaining, and it wouldn’t upset what was done, I might do it,” Chase said. He finally got that chance in 2018.
New ground in ‘The Many Saints of Newark’
Michael Imperioli as Christopher Moltisanti and Drea de Matteo as Adriana La Cerva star in HBO’s hit television series, ‘The Sopranos.’ | HBO
As details of Chase’s new project trickle out, it’s easy to see what interested him. In an interview with the AP, he noted the late 1960s would be fertile ground for a film, a time of “all the racial animosity.” He also mentioned it as the time of “the beginning, the really true beginning of the flood of drugs.”
In Season One of The Sopranos, an episode titled “Down Neck” included a flashback scene from that same period. As we saw a young Tony seeing what his father did for a living, the Newark riots raged in the background. From the angle Chase took in those scenes, you can expect clashes between Soprano crews and African-American protesters (or the cops, or both).
Meanwhile, the story presents a bit of a culture clash within the Italian-American community. Alessandro Nivola, who will play Dickey Moltisanti (father of Christopher, played by Michael Imperioli in the HBO series), said his character had trouble communicating with a recent Italian immigrant in the prequel.
So Chase got his wish. Between Newark’s riots, the flowering of ’60s culture, and an earlier generation of Sopranos, it was clearly time for one last, big score. Fans of the now-classic HBO show couldn’t ask for more.
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