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The Many Saints of Newark

2021 film directed by Alan Taylor

The Many Saints of Newark
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlan Taylor
Written by
Based onCharacters
by David Chase
Produced by
  • David Chase
  • Lawrence Konner
  • Nicole Lambert
CinematographyKramer Morgenthau
Edited byChristopher Tellefsen
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • September 22, 2021 (2021-09-22) (Tribeca)
  • October 1, 2021 (2021-10-01) (United States)
Running time
120 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.3 million[2]

The Many Saints of Newark (marketed with the subtitle A Sopranos Story) is a 2021 American crime drama film directed by Alan Taylor and written by David Chase and Lawrence Konner. A prequel to Chase's HBO crime drama series The Sopranos, it takes place during the 1960s and 1970s in Newark, New Jersey. The film follows a violent gang war from the perspectives of mobster Dickie Moltisanti and his teenage nephew, Tony Soprano, using the city's 1967 riots as a backdrop for tensions between the Italian-American and African-American communities.[3] It stars Alessandro Nivola as Dickie and Michael Gandolfini as Tony, the character originated by his father in the series, with Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnussen, Michela De Rossi, John Magaro, Ray Liotta, and Vera Farmiga in supporting roles.

Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema obtained the rights to produce The Many Saints of Newark alongside HBO Films. The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Fall Preview on September 22, 2021, and was theatrically released in the United States on October 1, 2021, along with a month-long simultaneous release on the HBO Max streaming service. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, with many praising Gandolfini's performance.[4]


In 1967, a young Tony Soprano travels with Richard "Dickie" Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola) to welcome home Dickie's father, Aldo "Hollywood Dick" Moltisanti and his new Italian wife, Giuseppina Bruno. Moltisanti is a soldier in the DiMeo crime family, which also consists of Giovanni "Johnny Boy" Soprano and his brother Corrado "Junior" Soprano Jr., Silvio Dante, Paulie Gualtieri, Salvatore Bonpensiero and his father, "Buddha" Bonpensiero. After black taxi driver John William Smith is assaulted by police officers, riots break out in Newark. One of Dickie's black associates, Harold McBrayer, begins to take part in the riots.

Simultaneously, Johnny and Junior are arrested at a carnival, while Tony watches from a distance. He is sentenced to four years in prison. Hollywood Dick kicks Giuseppina down a flight of stairs. Dickie realizes this and confronts him. After a physical altercation, Dickie kills his father and puts his body in his drainage supply building, which he burns down to make it look as though it were destroyed in the riots. Dickie visits his uncle and Hollywood Dick's twin brother, Sally, who is serving a life sentence in prison for killing another made man in his own family. Sally knows that Dickie killed his father, but doesn't challenge him. Dickie begins seeing Giuseppina as his goomah. In elementary school, Tony is suspended from school for starting a gambling operation. Harold decides to move to North Carolina following a murder warrant, and Dickie gives him $500 as a gift.

Four years later, Johnny is released from prison. At a welcoming back party, Dickie and his wife Joanne show an infant Christopher to Johnny and the rest of the family. Christopher cries when he sees Tony, and a woman at the table tells him that "some babies, when they come into the world, know all kinds of things from the other side." Harold returns from North Carolina and decides to start his own black crime operation in Newark. Giuseppina begins having an affair with Harold after a fight with Dickie. Harold kills one of the DiMeos and steals their protection money. Dickie and his crew interrogate one of Harold's gang members, Cyril and kill him. In retaliation for Cyril's death, Harold and his gang engage in a shootout with the DiMeos, during which Buddha Bonpensiero is killed.

Tony steals the answers for his geometry exam, and the school guidance counselor tells Tony's mother, Livia, that he has a high IQ and the personality traits of a leader, and that Tony told her about a time in which his mother hugged him and read him a book about Sutter's Mill and how it was one of his best memories. Livia tries to show her affection for Tony, but she mentions how her doctor wanted to prescribe her antidepressants and when Tony believes it might be helpful, she antagonizes him.

At a wake, Tony asks Dickie if he could get Elavil for his mother, but Dickie is hesitant. Junior slips and falls on the steps and Dickie laughs, angering him. Dickie reconnects with Bruno and promises her a beauty parlor for her to run. During a walk on the beach, Bruno confesses to an affair with Harold. Dickie, angered, drowns her in the sea. Dickie visits Sally, who is again seemingly aware of his involvement in Bruno's death, but chooses not to confront him. However, he advises Dickie to stay out of Tony's life. Dickie starts to avoid Tony, much to his anger. Silvio encourages Dickie to reconcile with Tony, and Dickie relents. However, before he can arrive home he is shot in the head from behind by an unknown assailant, under the implied orders of Junior Soprano. At the wake, Tony stares at the body of Dickie.




David Chase in 2015

I was against [the movie] for a long time and I'm still very worried about it, but I became interested in Newark, where my parents came from, and where the riots took place ... I was living in suburban New Jersey at the time that happened, and my girlfriend was working in downtown Newark. I was just interested in the whole Newark riot thing. I started thinking about those events and organized crime, and I just got interested in mixing those two elements.

—David Chase in 2019, writer and producer of The Many Saints of Newark[5]

The origins of what ultimately took shape of The Many Saints of Newark happened when David Chase finished film school, having the idea of making a film about four white persons living around Newark, New Jersey who joined the National Guard to avoid being drafted to the Vietnam War only to be sent instead to the 1967 Newark riots, though the film went unproduced. Following the release of The Sopranos, Chase was suggested by Oz creator Tom Fontana to write a film centered on Tony Soprano's father Giovanni "Johnny Boy" Soprano set in the 1930s or 1940s. However, the idea eventually fell off due to Chase's lack of interest.[6]

Chase ruled out the idea of continuing The Sopranos story in June 2017, while simultaneously expressing an interest in a prequel to the series.[7] He had earlier been against the idea of making a film based on The Sopranos, especially a sequel to the series, given James Gandolfini's death in 2013, but became interested in Newark due to the 1967 Newark riots and his family ties to the city: "I was interested in Newark and life in Newark at that time ... I used to go to down there every Saturday night for dinner with my grandparents. But the thing that interested me most was Tony's boyhood. I was interested in exploring that", acknowledging that a prequel film could explore the period of Tony's life that he glorified in the show's early episodes. Chase said that the main storyline centers on the 1967 Newark riots and racial tensions between the Italian-American and African-American communities.[5] Chase's biggest challenge during writing was the inclusion of many storylines for different characters; some aspects of those storylines were dropped during editing to let the storylines "take shape" within the film's overall narrative.[8]

In March 2018, New Line Cinema announced that it purchased the rights to produce the film along with HBO Films,[9] with Chase co-writing the screenplay with Lawrence Konner.[10][11] New Line's chairman, Toby Emmerich, stated, "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".[10] Chase wasn't concerned about alienating audiences unfamiliar to the show; for him and Konner, their intention was to tell a realistic and respectable dramatic criminal story, under the "auspices" of The Sopranos.[6] Alan Taylor, who directed several episodes of The Sopranos, was hired to direct the film in July 2018.[12] Chase offered Taylor to direct the film one day while they lunched together, feeling that Taylor had worked in the show's best episodes and had given him "the most trouble".[13] In contrast to the show, Taylor felt that Chase allowed more creative control over the film than when he ran the show, as Chase spent most of the time outlining the story sequestered in the writer's room.[8]


Alessandro Nivola stars as Dickie Moltisanti

In November 2018, Alessandro Nivola was cast to star in the film as Dickie Moltisanti, the father of Christopher Moltisanti.[14] Dickie never appeared in the show despite being mentioned, though Chase didn't have any plans to feature the character physically then.[6] In January 2019, while discussing the 20th anniversary of the series, Chase revealed that a young Tony Soprano would appear in the film.[5] Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga, Corey Stoll and Billy Magnussen were added to the cast that same month.[15][16] Michael Gandolfini, son of James Gandolfini, was cast in the role of young Tony.[17][18] He wasn't immediately cast and had to audition for the role, but Taylor and Chase felt that they were right in casting him when Gandolfini thanked all the production team for allowing him to "say hello and goodbye again" to his father.[13] Gandolfini, having never watched The Sopranos, watched through it to prepare for the role, describing it as an intense process.[19] To keep Gandolfini's performance from being too similar to that of his father, Taylor occasionally reshot a scene if Gandolfini acted like he were already an experienced gangster, as the young Tony is "still a kid" during the film.[13] Ray Liotta joined the cast in February,[20] with Leslie Odom Jr. and Michela De Rossi joining in March,[21][22][23] as well as John Magaro, who starred in Chase's debut feature film Not Fade Away (2012).[24] Liotta had been previously approached by Chase to appear in third or fourth seasons of The Sopranos, but the plan didn't work out.[25]

Edie Falco filmed scenes as her character Carmela Soprano which were intended to start the film, but her scenes were cut. Taylor explained, "There was some confusion as to how best launch the movie. How to start the movie. So we tried a few things and that was one of them. If you've seen the movie you'll see that we begin it in a very different way now but that wasn't always the idea".[26]


Principal photography began in Brooklyn on April 3, 2019,[27][28] moved to Newark on May 7,[29] and wrapped in June 2019.[30] Branford Place, a street in Newark, was transformed to fit the 1960s time period for the riots, including detailed storefronts, the old Adams Theatre marquee, and the retro neon sign for Hobby's Delicatessen.[31] Luther Engler, a retired Newark police officer, served as a technical adviser for the film.[31] Filming also took place in Bloomfield.[32] Satriale's Pork Store, which was featured in The Sopranos, was recreated in Paterson.[33] Filming was halted upon the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.[8] The production returned for re-shoots in September 2020,[34] during which the filmmakers shot some important aspects that improved the film's story.[8]

To accurately depict the 1967 Newark riots, due to his penchant for historical exactitude given his past career as a history professor, Taylor directly recreated some of the film shots from archival photos and footage of the event, even if doing so could keep some scenes from feeling as sensational as they could have been. During post-production, there were some serious talks about if the film's depiction of the Newark riots would still seem appropiate in the wake of the George Floyd protests, but after showing the movie to some consultants and Odom Jr., Taylor concluded that the film was made in a way that it became more heightened and conscious enough to avoid controversy.[13] Christopher Tellefsen worked as the film's editor. The editing process took longer than expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the film industry, though Taylor felt the extended period helped him and Chase to discuss in what would consist the film's final cut together.[8]


The film was initially scheduled to be released on September 25, 2020;[35] however, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on theaters and the film industry, its release date was rescheduled to March 12, 2021.[36][37] It was then delayed again to September 24, 2021, so it could premiere on the film festival circuit and better position itself as an awards contender, before later moving to October 1.[38][39] The film was simultaneously released in theaters and on HBO Max (for a limited period of 31 days), as part of the 2021 Warner Bros. film release schedule plans.[40] The film had its world premiere at the inaugural Tribeca Fall Preview at the Beacon Theatre on September 22, 2021,[41] the same date as the film's early release in the United Kingdom.[42]


Box office

In the United States and Canada, The Many Saints of Newark was released alongside Venom: Let There Be Carnage and The Addams Family 2, and is projected to gross around $10 million from 3,180 theaters in its opening weekend.[43][44]

Critical response

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 74% based on 131 reviews, with an average rating of 6.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Even as its storytelling chafes at the edges of its cinematic constraints, The Many Saints of Newark proves The Sopranos' allure is still powerful."[45] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 61 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[46]

Possible sequel

Chase has expressed interest in producing a sequel to The Many Saints of Newark that follows Tony Soprano in his 20s, provided he could collaborate with former Sopranos writer Terence Winter.[47] Upon hearing this, Winter replied he would do it "in a heartbeat. Absolutely."[48]


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External links