James Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano is regarded as one of the greatest characters in television history, so it’s no surprise that fans are eagerly anticipating the role’s revival in the forthcoming Sopranos prequel film, The Many Saints of Newark. In a moving tribute to the late actor, Tony is set to be played by Gandolfini’s son, Michael Gandolfini, 14 years after the original show ended.
In a new interview, Gandolfini’s wife has spoken out about the “courage” it took for Michael to fill his father’s shoes. “It was almost surreal to see Michael in the trailer,” Deborah Lin, Gandolfini’s widow and Michael’s stepmother, told Page Six. “I know it took a lot of courage for him to take this role. It was very emotional. But the whole family is just so proud of him. His father would be very proud.”
The Many Saints of Newark will explore the formative years of mob boss Tony Soprano, telling the story of his initiation into a life of crime and subsequent rise to the top, against the backdrop of the 1967 race riots that marked one of the most tumultuous eras of New Jersey city’s history.
According to Page Six, The Sopranos’ original cast are excited to see how Michael will make the role his own. “We want Michael to succeed and be happy with whatever he does,” Lorraine Bracco, who played Tony’s psychiatrist Dr Melfi, told the publication. “He has very big shoes to fill and I hope that people aren’t expecting too much. I want him to be his own man, his own actor… I don’t think we should really compare him to Jimmy. He’s a smart, great kid. I don’t want to say that he reminds me of Jimmy – he is his own person. But Jimmy would be very proud of him, he would be thrilled.”
Speaking to Vanity Fair in February, Michael revealed that he only started acting after his father’s death in 2013, when Michael was just 14 years old. “I’d resisted it,” he said, “but it sparked something.” When he was cast in The Many Saints of Newark, Michael hadn’t seen any of the original Sopranos. “My dad didn’t want me to see Tony Soprano – the violence, the angry, the mean. Of course I was on set and would visit him in his trailer, but I had never watched the show… I never knew Tony Soprano. I only knew my dad.”
Michael made his acting debut in 2017 in drama series The Deuce, in which he starred alongside James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhall, before joining the cast of Ocean’s 8 in 2018.
The Many Saints of Newark is set to be released in cinemas and on HBO Max in the US on October 1. A UK cinema release is scheduled to follow on October 22. You can watch the trailer below.