Michael Gandolfini was told to scale back his performance as a young Tony Soprano while working on the upcoming Sopranos prequel movie The Many Saints of Newark. Gandolfini will play the younger version of the role his late father, James Gandolfini, originated in the hit HBO series. Seen by many as one of the greatest television shows of all time anchored by one of the greatest characters of all time in Tony, The Sopranos has become a cultural touchstone of prestige TV. Now, Warner Bros. is gearing up to release The Many Saints of Newark, which will follow Tony Soprano during his youth as he becomes intwined in the DiMeo crime family.
Directed by Alan Taylor, who helmed nine episodes of The Sopranos, The Many Saints of Newark is also written by David Chase, creator of the HBO show. In addition to Gandolfini, the film will star Vera Farmiga as Livia Soprano, Tony’s mom, and Alessandro Nivola as Dickie Moltisanti, Christopher Moltisanti’s father. Ray Liotta, Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, and Billy Magnussen also star. While the film will establish Tony Soprano and his burgeoning crime career, it will also provide some long-awaited answers to questions raised by the original series, including just what happened to Dickie and how Tony became the person he is.
Now, in a new interview with CBS Sunday Morning (via THR), Gandolfini revealed that he tried to emulate the older version of Tony a little too much. The young actor revealed that he was told to act more his age and “pull it back” while filming due to the fact that the movie takes place during Tony’s youth and not when he’s already an established and fearsome crime boss. While Gandolfini admits his desire to give fans everything they want from the character, he took the notes in stride, realizing that paring it back may be the best decision. Read his full quote below:
If anything, my instinct was to give in scenes more of the Tony [the fans] had known, and it was [director] Allen [Taylor] and [Sopranos creator] David [Chase] who would come in and be like, ‘Pull it back. He’s not that yet. You can’t yell at the principal like you’re 30.’ So that is a way I felt the pressure, and I wanted to give [the fans] the Tony they had all seen. But I had to remember to pull back, too.
As one of television’s most iconic characters, Tony Soprano is an intimidating force. Couple that with the fact that Gandolfini is playing the character his father made so famous and the pressure is unimaginable. Not only does he have to please fans, but the young actor likely feels the weight of carrying his father’s legacy in the upcoming film. Luckily, if The Many Saints of Newark‘s first trailers are any indication, he does it wonderfully, emulating Tony’s outwardly tough persona while still conveying the inner emotional turmoil that defined his later years.
This fight between cold detachment and emotional investment is what made Tony Soprano so great and there’s arguably no one better to bring him back than Gandolfini’s son. Of course, only time will tell if The Many Saints of Newark lives up to The Sopranos‘ greatness. It’s a high bar to reach and one can’t help but wonder if it’s even worth trying. Fortunately, Gandolfini is involved in some way, making Tony Sopranos’ return that much more exciting.