‘Sopranos’ to Return, but as a Prequel

  • FILE - In this March 3, 2006 file photo, David Chase, creator and producer of the hit HBO series "The Sopranos," poses on a set in the Queens borough of New York. Warner Bros. Pictures says Thursday that New Line has purchased a screenplay for a “Sopranos” prequel from series creator David Chase and Lawrence Konner. The studio says the working title is “The Many Saints of Newark” and will be set in the 1960s during the Newark riots. Chase’s acclaimed series about the mobster Tony Soprano played by the late James Gandolfini ran for six seasons on HBO and won 21 primetime Emmys. (AP Photo/Diane Bondareff, File)

The Washington Post
Friday, March 09, 2018

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.”

Without it, many argue, we wouldn’t have Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Wire or even Game of Thrones.

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 some 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 only directed 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.”