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Michael Gandolfini Can’t Believe His Dad Played Tony Soprano for 9 Years: ‘I’m Exhausted After Three Months’

"Tony Soprano is a [expletive] hard character," Michael Gandolfini said.

Michael Gandolfini in "The Many Saints of Newark"

Michael Gandolfini in “The Many Saints of Newark,” James Gandolfini in “The Sopranos”

Warner Bros./HBO

Michael Gandolfini has previously spoken about never watching “The Sopranos” until he was cast as young Tony Soprano in the upcoming prequel movie “The Many Saints of Newark.” In a new interview with The New York Times, the actor shared that he had an unexpected reaction to watching the Emmy-winning HBO drama series for the first time: Being James Gandolfini’s son would not help him become Tony Soprano.

“Maybe I could know how to play my dad,” Michael said, “but I don’t know how to play Tony. I have to create my own Tony from my life and still play the things that made him Tony.”

As The New York Times reports: “Michael was utterly fascinated with the multifaceted Tony — ‘a character who will cry, become angry at himself that he’s crying and then laugh at himself all in one scene,’ he said. Gandolfini was determined to assimilate the physical quirks and tics that he saw in his father’s performance: Tony’s lumbering walk and hunched posture; the way he bit his lip when he smiled and clenched his fists in his therapy sessions.”

“The pressure is real,” Michael said about taking on his father’s most iconic role. “There’s fear. But the second layer, that a lot of people don’t think about, which was actually harder, is to play Tony Soprano…not only was it the feeling of my dad — it was like, Tony Soprano is a [expletive] hard character.”

Michael walked away from the movie with pride for his father. “He so was not Tony,” the actor told The Times. “The only insight that I think I gained was deep pride in him. I’m exhausted after three months — you did that for nine years?”

Michael stars in “Many Saints” as a younger version of the famous Tony Soprano, who in the movie is an idealistic teenager whose world view is shaped by his relationship to his mafioso uncle Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola). Warner Bros. is opening “The Many Saints of Newark” in theaters October 1. The movie will be available to stream exclusively on HBO Max for 31 days beginning the same as its theatrical release.

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