“The Sopranos” — HBO’s drama about a group of New Jersey mobsters led by Tony Soprano (played by the late James Gandolfini) — forever changed television. Critic Rob Sheffield is one of many to name it the best show of all time. He wrote in Rolling Stone, “The crime saga that cut the history of TV in two, kicking off a golden age when suddenly anything seemed possible.”
The show reigned over the television landscape for six seasons, from 1999 to 2007, earning 21 Emmys. It concluded with a divisive finale which left up in the air whether Tony is killed. The camera cut away at the last minute, leaving fans hungry for more episodes — or at least resolution.
Well, for those fans, there’s good news and bad news.
The good news: The show’s creator David Chase is telling more of the Sopranos story with a movie.
The bad news: It won’t offer any hints about that inconclusive finale, because it’s going to be a prequel.
Warner Bros. Pictures told the Associated Press on Thursday that its imprint New Line Cinema purchased a screenplay from Chase and “Mona Lisa Smile” screenwriter Lawrence Konner, who worked on a few episodes of “The Sopranos.”
The movie’s working title is “The Many Saints of Newark.” It will be set during the 1967 Newark race riots — five days of rioting sparked when police beat a black cabdriver named John Smith. The rioting grew so fierce that a policeman was eventually killed, and the National Guard was sent in with orders to use their weapons at will, NPR reported.
“There was a rain of stones, rocks, molotov cocktails at the precinct,” Bob Curvin, a black Newark resident, recalled to NPR about the riots. “The flames started flickering down the side of the building, and the police came charging out with nightsticks, shields, riot gear, charging the crowd.”
Chase and Konner’s screenplay inserts the Soprano family into this real-world drama.
The movie’s official description says it is set “when the African Americans and the Italians of Newark were at each other’s throats, and when among the gangsters of each group, it became especially lethal.”
By the show’s lore, Tony Soprano was born in 1959 — meaning he would have been a young boy during the riots. The studio promised that many familiar characters from the show will appear in the prequel. It wouldn’t name who these characters are, but Deadline’s Mark Fleming Jr. had some guesses.
” … The time period indicates there will be room for Tony Soprano’s father, Giovanni ‘Johnny Boy,’ the former captain of the Soprano crew (played in flashbacks by Joseph Siravo), and a younger version of his wife Livia (played indelibly in the show’s first season by Nancy Marchand), and Tony’s uncle Junior,” he wrote.
Chase will not direct the prequel, but he will help choose a director, the New York Times reported. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, as Chase rarely directs his projects. He directed only two episodes of “The Sopranos.”
“David is a masterful storyteller and we, along with our colleagues at HBO, are thrilled that he has decided to revisit, and enlarge, the Soprano universe in a feature film,” Toby Emmerich, chairman of the Warner Bros. Picture Group, told Deadline in a statement.
Fans holding out for some resolution of Tony Soprano’s fate shouldn’t hold their breath. Just last year Chase told Entertainment Weekly, “I could never see [a return of the show] except as a prequel.”
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