‘The Sopranos’ Movie Prequel Will Explore Tony’s Childhood

“The Many Saints of Newark” will also focus on 1960s race tensions.

Getty Images

We regret to inform you that The Sopranos is 20 years old. That’s right, the tale of depressed mob boss Tony Soprano premiered on HBO on January 10, 1999. It’s hard to believe because one characteristic of a truly great prestige drama—and The Sopranos damn sure merits that designation—is that it doesn’t really age. 

Creator David Chase marked the anniversary by detailing elements of the plot for the feature film The Many Saints of Newark, an upcoming Sopranos prequel. The story goes all the way back to Tony’s childhood, and how his life in Newark, New Jersey intersected with the turmoil of the late 1960s.

As Deadline reports, Saints won’t be some kind of Sopranos Babies featuring just cute little Tony’s adventures before the mob life corrupted him. The period movie will be about Dickie Moltisanti, “the father of Tony Soprano’s future protégé Christopher and a mob soldier who died in the ’70s at the hands of a crooked cop whom Christopher (Michael Imperioli) would later murder on the day of his retirement from the police force.”

According to Deadline, that “character will provide an entry point into a look at the mob’s origins in the turbulence of racial tensions between African Americans and Italian Americans in Newark, NJ at that time.”

In an interview with Deadline, David Chase said he “was interested in Newark and life in Newark at that time.” He recalled visiting the city every Saturday to visit his grandparents and said, “But the thing that interested me most was Tony’s boyhood. I was interested in exploring that.”

Saints will be about the tension between blacks and whites in 1960s Newark, Chase said, and “Tony Soprano will be part of this, but as a kid.” 

Late Sopranos star James Gandolfini, aka Tony Soprano

Fans of The Sopranos are hardcore, and no wonder—its combination of intensity and top-notch acting from stars like James Gandolfini (who died in 2013), and Edie Falco pretty much invited a cult following. Chase is sensitive to that. “Yeah, I feel [fans are] out there with shotguns, just waiting,” he told Deadline.

Look, no one could replace Gandolfini, so a sequel was never in the cards, but as Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul has proven, movies or shows that add to a huge hit’s mythology can be every bit as good as the original drama. 

Deadline reports The Many Saints of Newark is in the casting stage and will ramp up production later in 2019.