HBO's groundbreaking series The Sopranos is celebrating its 20th anniversay – but this week has been more about looking ahead than looking back, with actor Alessandro Nivola comfirming series creator David Chase's news on upcoming series prequel film The Many Saints of Newark from earlier this week (see below) – as well as some additional details.
Co-written by Chase and series alum Lawrence Konner through New Line and Warner Bros., with series director Alan Taylor helming the feature that features Nivola as Christopher's (Tony Soprano's protege, as portrayed by Michael Imperioli) father/mob soldier Dickie Moltisanti. As a refresher, Dickie was killed by a crooked cop in the 1970's (the same crooked cop Christopher would kill on the day the officer retired from the police force) – but it will be Dickie's life leading up to that moment that will serve as the film's focus on the origins of organized crime in the turbulence of racial tensions between African-Americans and Italian-Americans in Newark, New Jersey.
Speaking with Variety on Wednesday, Nivola has this to share:
● With the film set in 1967, Nivola's Dickie Moltisanti is set to be the "central character" and the film's title a reference to the meaning of the name "Moltisanti" in Italian: "many saints."
● The relationship between Dickie Moltisanti and a young Tony Soprano "is an important one in the film," and one that can be explored in more detail than it was in the original series:
"Dickie, as he's mentioned throughout the 'Sopranos' series, was an important figure in Tony's life. He was a real mentor figure, because Tony's dad was is in prison a lot and Dickie didn't have any children until later in his life until his early 40s, and so he treated Tony like a surrogate son."
● When the film was first announced, fans asked the obvious question that Chase can now confirm the answer to: a young Tony Soprano will be part of the film: "The movie will deal with the tensions between the blacks and whites at the time, and Tony Soprano will be part of this, but as a kid."
Using Tony's boyhood as the backdrop, Chase was also able to explore his interest in the social history of Newark:
"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."
● With his parents originally from the city, Chase's interest in Newark helped form the social tapestry for the film – a film that probably wouldn't have gotten made otherwise:
"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 took place. I was living in suburban New Jersey at the time that happened, and my girlfriend was working in downtown Newark. I was just interested in the whole Newark riot thing. I started thinking about those events and organized crime, and I just got interested in mixing those two elements."
● While he knows there are those out there ready to label the film a sacrilege ("Yeah, I feel they're out there with shotguns, just waiting") Chase is looking forward to showing The Sopranos fans the "good old days" of organized crime that were referenced in the original series:
"It is going to depict when it was good. The mafia was very polished at that time, how they dressed and what they did. Those traditions were followed more loosely in the series. These weren't guys who wore tracksuits, back then."