The Many Saints of Newark Cast and Characters: Who’s Who in the Sopranos Prequel Movie – IGN
The premiere of the trailer for HBO Max’s upcoming Sopranos prequel movie, The Many Saints of Newark, gave us a look at some of our favorite characters from the long-running mobster series as “youts.” Not only do we meet a spry and fresh-faced Tony Soprano but also Paulie, Silvio, Uncle Junior, and Tony’s parents Johnny Boy and Livia.
The Many Saints of Newark, from Sopranos creator David Chase and series writer Lawrence Konner, transports us back to 1970s Newark, New Jersey as young Anthony “Tony” Soprano comes of age right as rival gangsters begin to rise up and challenge the all-powerful DiMeo crime family’s hold over the increasingly race-torn city. Caught up in the changing times is the uncle he idolizes, Dickie Moltisanti, who struggles to manage both his professional and personal responsibilities.
Below you’ll find a Saints vs. Sopranos side-by-side cast comparison, pairing the original series stars with their new flashback counterparts. Plus, some of the other movie cast members as well, and commentary from Many Saints director Alan Taylor…
Michael Gandolfini (Ocean’s 8, The Deuce) plays future DiMeo crime family boss Tony Soprano, the role made famous by his late father, James Gandolfini.
“There’s a lot of echoes [in the film] in the kind of fathering relationship Tony had with Christopher,” The Many Saints of Newark director Alan Taylor tells IGN. “And that’s sort of the real cycle, I think, because Christopher’s dad was like a dad to Tony in many ways. And then Tony rises, and becomes like a dad figure to Christopher — with a very complex outcome, obviously. And there are cycles repeating, cycles you cannot escape. And one of the themes of the show and one of the themes of our movie is how locked into our cycles are we? How determined are we? Can we write our destiny or not? And for me, that’s sort of what the movie [is about]. Anybody coming to the movie knows Tony, and knows where Tony went. So in a way he’s kind of in a locked cycle. And because it’s David Chase and Sopranos, it doesn’t come out very well for a lot of them.
“Sopranos was an amazing cultural experience,” adds Taylor. “And if you start to analyze why, one thing David had was the brilliant idea to take the classic gangster movie and make it contemporary and put it on the TV instead of the big screen. So what are we doing [with Many Saints]? We’re going period, and we’re putting it on the big screen. So we’re sort of running in the opposite direction of some of the defining things that made Sopranos revolutionary. And I can’t stress enough the question of carrying on Sopranos without Jim Gandolfini is really… You can scare yourself to pieces over that too.”
Only seen in a photo on the original series, Dickie Moltisanti is the father of Tony’s cousin Christopher and a driven mobster whose influence over his impressionable nephew Tony will help make the teenager into the all-powerful mob boss we’ll later come to know. Dickie is played by Alessandro Nivola (Face/Off, Jurassic Park III).
“We do now find out what happened,” Taylor says in regards to Dickie’s fate. “And it does align with some things said in the show. It contradicts some of the things that were said in the show that I think we understood were sort of a little bit embroidery, or wishful memory, sort of. Anyway, I think, even for those who really know the show, this will play as the truth. This is behind all that.”
Bates Motel’s Vera Farmiga once again tackles the role of a famously crazed mom as she takes over the role of the villainous Livia Soprano – a role played by Nancy Marchand on The Sopranos.
“We certainly wanted to get people that we thought would work as younger versions of the [characters] as represented in the show,” says Taylor. “The tricky part comes when you’re doing the performances, you don’t want it to become an impression. You want it to become a full, formed performance. Luckily we had geniuses like Vera Farmiga and John Magaro [who plays Silvio] who were doing some of the performances that most closely mirrored their role models, but also making it completely alive themselves. I think we were all a little wary of there being shtick, coming into it like, ‘You’re not playing this character, but you’re playing this other person’s version of that character.’ But I’m pretty happy with how we threaded the needle. And there was some cases where there was some slight prosthetic work, like Vera and Billy Magnussen [for] Paulie. So in that way we were being faithful to the physiology.”
Johnny Boy Soprano
The Punisher and The Walking Dead’s Jon Bernthal plays Tony’s dad, Giovanni “Johnny Boy” Soprano. Giovanni was only seen in flashbacks, or in dreams, on the series where he was played by Joseph Siravo.
“Jon Bernthal as Johnny is a similar type, but he’s got a unique look,” says Taylor. “But he seemed like he completely nailed the vibe of the character. And that’s sort of heightened, because there were some scenes in the movie that are direct lifts from the show, like Johnny getting arrested at the amusement park is something that happens in the show and also in our movie. And it just meant that we had Jon Bernthal, which was great, and we also could afford to have an actual amusement park [as opposed to] one ride and two flats in the show!”
Played by Dominic Chianese on the original series, the role of uncle Corrado John “Junior” Soprano Jr. is being filled by The Strain and Ant-Man’s Corey Stoll.
“I certainly had trepidation [about this film] … it forced me to work very hard on what I thought the essence of Sopranos really was, to see if we could translate that to the big screen and keep it coherent with the show,” says Taylor. “Be more cinematic, but also be truthful to the aesthetic of the show … the absurdities and the existential lost-ness. The Russian guy in the Pine Barrens never coming back again. Or ducks in the swimming pool. And we have those [types of ] things in the movie too, of course, because it’s David’s voice. And those are the things that really, I think, are the yummiest for me. The moments of absurdity and transcendence and huge things happen from those trivial petty reasons.”
Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri
Played to violent, paranoid perfection on the HBO series by Tony Sirico, the role of Paulie Walnuts is now being played by Billy Magnussen (Game Night, No Time to Die).
“Partly out of respect for the fans and the material, but also just I think the way [Sopranos creator] David [Chase]’s brain works is this is sort of a true story in our heads, and we’re just getting it right,” says Taylor. “So it comes out in little details, like looking at the picture of the dog in Johnny Soprano’s house that was in the background of a shot. And getting a dog that could have been that dog [from the show]. So the small things. And mostly I think David and Larry had to do a lot of thinking about, ‘Well, where would people have been in their careers? Who were the earners? Who was a made guy [and] who wasn’t?’ All that stuff had to be sort of retro-fitted to make sure we got it right. So it’s just sort of being, ‘What would be the logical appropriate, truthful backstory?’ I don’t remember agonizing over, like, ‘Holy shit, that’s the wrong commemorative frame on the wall,’ or something. But we were watching ourselves pretty carefully.”
Tony’s future right-hand man, Silvio, portrayed by E Street Band’s Steven Van Zandt on the series, is played by Orange is the New Black and The Umbrella Academy’s John Magaro.
“Even having worked on the show, I was surprised by some of the chronologies,” says Taylor. “I didn’t really realize we know Tony and his gang, Paulie and Silvio and Pussy… It never really dawned on me that Tony was from a different generation than them, that he was a younger guy than most of those guys. He would have been younger. In fact, I think in the show he talks about Silvio being the only guy who was in the crew back when, around the time of his dad and his uncle. And Silvio is a functioning person in the crew in our movie and Tony is still very much a kid, on his way up sort of.”
Though not prominently featured in the trailer, the part of Salvatore “Big P***y” Bonpensiero, played by Vincent Pastore on the HBO show, is now being filled by relative newcomer Samson Moeakiola.
Hamilton and Person of Interest’s Leslie Odom Jr. plays a character named Harold McBrayer while, to his right, Germar Terrell Gardner stars as Cyril.
Regarding the racial strife depicted in the film, Taylor says it was a big part of Chase’s initial interest in making a prequel.
“It’s a really important part of the time, and it’s an important part of the upheaval in America,” says Taylor. “And it’s a big part of Harold’s story, who is changing over the course of the movie too. And he’s one of the sharpest versions of that question of, ‘Can we change our destiny? Can we change the story that’s being forced on us? Can we rewrite that?’”
Taylor also thinks that Many Saints, which was shut down for a while and delayed due to COVID like many movies and TV shows, has now become timely in a way the filmmakers didn’t originally expect.
“Because of David’s take on things, it does feel truthful,” says Taylor. “I think it’s sort of powerful that it’s there and it’s resonating with these things now after George Floyd. That’s the way it feels to me and I know that Leslie Odom had seen the movie, and it seemed to work for him, which I think is important.”
Michela De Rossi as ???
Though we don’t know her character name yet, Italian actress Michela De Rossi plays an “ambitious” Italian immigrant who comes to America to settle in New Jersey.
Ray Liotta as ???
Original Goodfella Ray Liotta is part of The Many Saints of Newark, playing what seems to be a higher up in the DiMeo crime family, at one point warning Dickie, from prison, to stay away from Tony.
The Many Saints of Newark will be released in theaters in the US on October 1 and will be available on HBO Max 31 days from the theatrical release.
7/2/2021: This story has been updated with the latest information on The Many Saints of Newark.