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‘The Many Saints of Newark’ is Not the Story of Young Tony Soprano

Director Alan Taylor clears up who the main character is in the upcoming ‘Sopranos’ prequel film.
Dickie Moltisanti Many Saints of Newark
Warner Bros.
By  · Published on July 8th, 2021

Entering the Discourse is a thrice-weekly column where we dig into who is saying what about new releases and upcoming projects. Today, we take a look at the trailer for The Many Saints of Newark and why it doesn’t show the truth about Dickie Moltisanti.

From 1999 to 2007, The Sopranos dominated pop culture and changed the landscape of prestige television. Created by David Chase, the HBO drama series follows Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) as he navigates life as both a father and a mob boss through therapy appointments with his psychiatrist (Lorraine Bracco).

Now, fourteen years after The Sopranos ended, Chase is back with the prequel film The Many Saints of Newark, which takes place in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

The movie dives into the history of a young Tony Soprano (played by James Gandolfini’s son, Michael Gandolfini) and his uncle Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), whom Tony viewed as his mentor. However, while the first trailer primarily features Tony, it’s not actually his movie after all.

Director Alan Taylor told IGN that this is, in fact, “absolutely Dickie’s story.”

He explained: “[Dickie] is, in my mind anyway, a kind of classic Sopranos man for all kinds of reasons, and that’s why we can explore all the same themes and tones through him that we know from the show.”

In hooking the viewer with images of a young Tony, the trailer is able to slowly reveal its depiction of not only the main Sopranos character’s budding reputation but also his complex relationship with his uncle, as well as Dickie’s role in shaping Tony’s future.

“I think our interest in him, and… the audience’s interest in him, comes from the fact that he is the guy that most shaped the guy we all know and have a complex relationship to,” Taylor told IGN about Dickie Moltisanti.  

But Dickie has more than just a relationship with Tony. He is a central, uniting figure in The Many Saints of Newark. “All of our stories in the movie, and there’s a few, all are grounded in Dickie… So it’s all very Dickie-centric, but our way in, and even the way the movie starts is sort of taking us through Tony to Dickie.”

Throughout The Sopranos, Dickie Moltisanti is a mysterious figure, only mentioned in name and regarded as Tony’s mentor. He is the father of Christopher Moltisanti, Tony’s protege and “nephew” played by Michael Imperioli in the series. With this movie, Chase and Taylor are able to build upon the ideas already known about Dickie and shape them into an expanded look into the world of Tony Soprano.

While you may not fully appreciate the prequel and the importance of learning about Dickie if you’re unfamiliar with the original series, that shouldn’t be a deterrent. Ray Liotta, who is rumored to be playing Dickie’s father, “Hollywood” Dick Moltisanti, in the movie, believes that seeing The Sopranos beforehand isn’t mandatory.

“It’s a movie unto itself,” Liotta told Collider, stressing that it’s accessible for fans and newcomers alike. “It lives alone.”

The Many Saints of Newark releases in theaters and on HBO Max on October 1st.

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Mary Beth McAndrews thinks found footage is good and will fight you if you say otherwise. When she's not writing, she's searching for Mothman with her two cats. Follow her on Twitter @mbmcandrews. (She/Her)