“The Sopranos” is back. David Chase and Lawrence Konner’s script for a prequel film titled “The Many Saints of Newark” has been picked up by New Line, and now everyone wants to know who will be the director tasked with bringing one of America’s favorite crime families back to life.
The film is set during the 1960s riots in Newark, New Jersey and deals with the war between the African-American and Italian mafias. While story details are not confirmed, characters such as Tony’s father and mother are reportedly involved. Chase himself could very well end up in the director’s chair, although he’s only listed as a co-writer and producer and is said to be closely involved with the hiring process.
Considering “The Sopranos” prequel film will be a period gangaster drama, Martin Scorsese is the no-brainer option every fan of the series would go crazy about, but that’s not exactly realistic. Below we list some possible candidates to direct “The Many Saints of Newark.”
Tim Van Patten
New Line is probably going to prefer Chase select a bigger name for the director’s chair, but “The Sopranos” creator would be wise to stick with the directorial voices that made the series such a powerhouse. Tim Van Patten was behind the camera for countless episodes of the HBO series and was nominated for four Emmys for directing the episodes “Amour Fou”, “Whoever Did This”, “Long Term Parking” and “Members Only.” Fans will recognize “Long Term Parking” as the iconic episode featuring Adriana’s execution. The film is going to be set in the 1960s, and Patten wouldn’t have a problem nailing period details after serving as executive producer and directing episodes of “Boardwalk Empire.”
Should Chase want to stick with television pros and remain in the HBO family, there would be few better choices than Michelle MacLaren. The director has been an HBO favorite over the last several years, directing episodes of “Game of Thrones,” “The Leftovers,” “Westworld,” and “The Deuce.” But her acclaimed work behind the camera on 11 episodes of “Breaking Bad” really seal the deal. Vince Gilligan’s drama owes nearly its entire existence to “The Sopranos,” and MacLaren is well accustomed to directing character-driven crime moments.
Bart Layton is best known for the 2012 documentary “The Imposter,” but he successfully proved his narrative feature chops at the Sundance earlier this year with the crime drama “American Animals.” Layton’s film is a slick heist movie that expertly balances the personalities of its four lead characters. More importantly, the film shows Layton is less interested in the conventional “action” of the story and more fascinated by what his characters’ decisions say about growing masculinity. Tony Soprano was the ultimate study in masculinity, and Chase is surely going to want to do the same with the prequel film’s lead character.
Now that Mimi Leder is officially back to making feature films (Focus Features will release “On the Basis of Sex” later this year), it would be amazing to see her take the reins of the “Sopranos” universe. Leder is a proud HBO veteran, having delivered some of the medium’s best-directed episodes this century with her work on “The Leftovers,” and the intimacy she manages to create between performers is unparalleled. Chase’s prequel sounds like it will be a bit more epic in scope than his series, and Leder will guarantee that scope doesn’t lose sight of the character-driven intensity that defined the series.
Sheridan has become one of the crime genre’s most reliable writers and directors over the last couple years thanks to “Sicario,” “Hell or High Water,” and “Wind River.” If Chase wants to go with someone with more big-screen experience, Sheridan would be an excellent choice. His scripts tell crime stories that are so involving because they’re invested in the emotional effect that being on the wrong side of the law has on its characters. Combine this staple of Sheridan’s writing with the sharp direction he showed off in “Wind River” and you have the makings of a great “Sopranos” movie.
The safe bet is for Chase to go with a “Sopranos” veteran to helm the prequel film, and Alan Taylor is another extremely worthy candidate. Taylor directed episodes of “The Sopranos” in every season except two of them, and he won the 2007 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for the sixth season episode “Kennedy and Heidi.” A prequel film would be great under Taylor’s watch, and he’s got period experience, having directed episodes of “Mad Men” and “Boardwalk Empire.” Plus, a return to “The Sopranos” is just what Taylor’s career needs after tentpole misfires “Thor: The Dark World” and “Terminator Genisys.”
Saulnier might be a little busy directing the upcoming third season of HBO’s “True Detective,” but he would be an exciting choice to bring into the “Sopranos” family. The indie favorite has made some of the more visceral crime films of the past few years with “Blue Ruin” and “Green Room” and his vision excels at rooting his characters in a very specific time and place. The settings of Saulnier’s movies are just as important as the characters themselves, and we’d love to see what he does with the mob-inflected world of 1960s Newark.
British filmmaker Asif Kapadia won the Oscar for Best Documentary with “Amy,” but it’s his work on David Fincher’s Netflix series “Mindhunter” that makes the thought of him taking on the world of “The Sopranos” so intriguing. The director is one of the best at telling stories of people who get swallowed up and spit out whole by the world they love most (Amy Winehouse and music, Ford and FBI work, Ayrton Senna and motor-racing), and that’s a relatively simple way of describing a through-line that runs across “The Sopranos.”
Getting Scorsese to direct the prequel film is a stretch, but it’s not too far fetched to think that a director who is a Scorsese-backed award winner could land the gig. Italian-American Jonas Carpignano is the acclaimed indie filmmaker behind “Mediterranea” and “A Ciambra,” the latter of which won the Europa Cinemas Label Award at Cannes and counts Scorsese as an executive producer. Carpignano may lack experience dealing with gangster stories, but “A Ciambra” has a focus on character struggle and realism that would do right by “The Sopranos.”