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James Gandolfini’s Son Agreed to Play Young Tony Soprano Without Ever Watching ‘The Sopranos’

Twenty-year-old Michael Gandolfini is set to breakthrough in a big way in 2020 by playing a younger version of his father's most iconic role.

Michel and James Gandolfini

Michael and James Gandolfini


There are a lot of high profile movies set for release this fall, but die-hard fans of HBO’s “The Sopranos” are most likely looking forward to fall 2020 because of the release of “The Many Saints of Newark.” The “Sopranos” prequel film, written by series creator David Chase and directed by series veteran Alan Taylor, stars the late James Gandolfini’s son, Michael, in the role of Tony Soprano. The anti-hero made James a star and could do the same for Michael, whose only acting experience prior to the prequel had been a small role on HBO’s “The Deuce.” It was during the making of “The Deuce” that Michael Gandolfini got a call from Chase and heard about the idea to have him play the same character that made his father an icon.

“The funny thing is, before the audition, I had never watched a minute of ‘The Sopranos,’” Michael recently told Esquire. “The hardest part of this whole process was watching the show for the first time. It was an intense process. Because, as an actor, I had to watch this guy who created the role, to look for mannerisms, voice, all those things I would have to echo. But then I’d also be seeing my father.”

Michael continued, “I think what made it so hard was I had to do it alone. I was just sitting alone in my dark apartment, watching my dad all the time. I started having crazy dreams. I had one where I auditioned for David and I looked down at my hands, and they were my dad’s hands.”

Upon his first watch of the Emmy-winning HBO drama series, Michael had two scenes stand out above the rest. Both involved scenes in which Tony has a heartfelt moment with his children. The first is a scene where Tony’s daughter, Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), comes home late one night and Tony tells her, “You know I love you, right?” Michael said “that [moment] hit hard.” The second scene was a fight between Tony and his son, A.J. (Robert Iler), that ended with Tony saying, “I couldn’t ask for a better son.”

“I just knew he was talking to me in that scene,” Michael said.

Michael’s younger iteration of Tony Soprano will be a supporting player in “The Many Saints of Newark.” The prequel centers on Christopher Moltisanti’s father Dickie as he gets caught up in mafia dealings and race wars in 1960s New Jersey. Alessandro Nivola is leading the film as Dickie opposite a cast that includes Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnussen, Ray Liota, and Leslie Odom Jr. “The Main Saints of Newark” is set for release on September 25, 2020.

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