Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

‘Many Saints of Newark’ Preview Fills in ‘The Sopranos’ Tragic Backstory

Michael Gandolfini as the teenage Tony Soprano and Alessandro Nivola as Dickie Moltisanti in 'The Many Saints of Newark.'
Michael Gandolfini as the teenage Tony Soprano and Alessandro Nivola as Dickie Moltisanti in ‘The Many Saints of Newark.’ Warner Bros./YouTube

Very few (if any) shows come close to portraying the emotional complexity and vivid drama of David Chase’s The Sopranos. In the over 20 years since the show’s HBO debut, the mythology surrounding The Sopranos has only trebled. As new fans come of age, entire books are released analyzing its thematic and narrative depth.

Now, a prequel movie, The Many Saints of Newark, is debuting on HBO Max and in select theaters. Whether or not you’ve seen The Sopranos, it’s best to review the relevant plot points and the real world the Saints will attempt to cover in 120 minutes. (Some spoilers ahead.)

 Saints will explore young Tony Soprano’s life with actor Michael Gandolfini, James’ real-life son, in a reverse act of art imitating life. Who better to channel such an iconic performance and paint a convincing portrait of a much younger Tony?

Saints is set in 1967, when Tony is still just a high school student, giving audiences a much better idea of what the mob boss was like before his life in organized crime. According to previews, he’s a troubled kid with big dreams and terrible influences around him. The tragedy of Tony’s repressed sensitivity and squandered smarts will come into full view in Saints. 

The movie will shine a spotlight on the man who shaped Tony’s path more than any other — Dickie Moltisanti (played by Alessandro Nivola). Tony had immense respect for Dickie, a man he viewed as a mentor, role model, and father figure and it’s thanks to “Uncle” Dickie’s guidance that Tony worked his way up the New Jersey mob ranks. The prequel is as much Dickie’s story (if not more so) as Tony’s.

Related Guides

It’s safe to say Richard “Dickie” Moltisanti is the most important Sopranos character who never actually appears in the series. Dickie is dead before The Sopranos events, but he’s alluded to by his son Christopher, Tony, and others numerous times over the course of six seasons.

The rest of the Soprano family will also appear, with Jon Bernthal appearing as young Tony’s father Giovanni “Johnny Boy” Soprano, Corey Stoll playing Corrado “Junior” Soprano and Vera Farmiga as Tony’s brutally unaffectionate mother Livia. (The movie offers another glimpse at how much her brand of parenting warped Tony into the man he becomes.)

Tony’s familiar mob underlings are also revealed in their younger forms (with plenty of foreshadowing). This includes Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri (Billy Magnussen), Silvio Dante (John Magaro) and Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero (Samson Moeakiola). Even Christopher Moltisanti will appear in the film, albeit as an infant. 

One trailer reveals a baby Christopher sobbing uncontrollably upon meeting Tony, after which a family member suggests newborns carry knowledge of their own future into the world. Even though co-creators David Chase and director Alan Taylor designed this as a standalone film, it’s clear from scenes like this that Saints will be best appreciated understanding what the future holds for these characters.

While these gangsters are fictional, the movie’s summer of 1967 backdrop is very real. Newark, like a number of major American cities, experienced a spate of violent clashes between police and people protesting racial and economic inequality during “The Long Hot Summer.”

By 1967, Newark had become one of the first urban areas in the United States with a majority African American population, despite still having mostly white politicians controlling the local government. That powder keg finally exploded in July with the violent arrest of Black cab driver, John William Smith. 

These riots serve as a backdrop and a crucial plot point in Saints, with a major clash between the DiMeo crime family (with the Sopranos and Moltisantis as members) and a rival crime family led by Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.).

Read More: ‘The Matrix 4’ Trailer 

Matthew Denis
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Matt Denis is an on-the-go remote multimedia reporter, exploring arts, culture, and the existential in the Pacific Northwest…
What UFC champions Sean O’Malley and Aljamain Sterling eat while cutting weight in fight week
Spoiler alert: There's a lot of protein
Chicken breast and broccoli

Whether you're a fan of mixed martial arts (MMA) or just curious about the behind-the-scenes routines of professional fighters, you might be wondering how UFC champions "Suga" Sean O'Malley and Aljamain "Funkmaster" Sterling get ready for fight week.

One slightly controversial part of their prep is cutting weight up to the fight. Weight cutting is a common practice in most combat sports and refers to dropping weight before a competition to compete in a specific weight class.

Read more
Shohei Ohtani all but gone, MLB franchise LA Angels may also lose Mike Trout: Report
Our GM hopes they both move to Chavez Ravine to play for The Dodgers
Shohei Otani playing baseball

The Los Angeles Angels may be on their way to a major team overhaul. Shohei Ohtani, who is one of the best and most innovative two-way players in the history of baseball, has already made it clear that he wants to leave the team, and now, news has broken suggested that Mike Trout, the team's other major star, could also be on his way out the door. Needless to say, losing both of their major stars could have an enormous impact on what the Angels look like moving forward.
Shohei Ohtani is almost definitely leaving
At the end of this season, during which Ohtani has been riddled with injuries, the phenom will be a free agent, and those closest to the league suggest that he's likely to sign with another team. Everyone from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the New York Mets is expected to pursue him this off-season for understandable reasons, and Ohtani has previously made it clear that he's not necessarily thrilled with the way this season has gone for the Angels, who are set to miss the playoffs completely.

Ohtani has yet to formalize any sort of deal with another team, but the question seems to be more about where he'll end up than whether he'll stay with the Angels. The team did choose to hold onto him past the trade deadline, a move they say they don't regret, so it's still possible that the two sides find some way to come to an agreement. In all likelihood, though, Ohtani's time with the Angels is done, and he'll be in a new uniform when the next season starts.

Read more
She shed? Yoga studio? Man cave? For $11k, this incredibly nice Costco shed can be whatever you want – with a catch
Buy it by October 1 if you're interested
A person doing yoga outside of a she shed.

All adults want their own private space. She shed, man cave, reading nook, yoga studio, scream hut — whatever you want your personal bubble for, Costco wants to grant your wish. As if a Costco membership didn't already open doors to magical worlds, they offer a deal to take if you want a personal sanctuary in your backyard. If this sounds too good to be true, there are a few things to know before you run to your local Costco, but see if this fantastic offer could make your shed life goals happen for you.

What you want to know about the Gorilla Escape 12x10 Shed
Let's dive into the good stuff you care about.
The shed details

Read more