Can Ray Liotta Recreate the ‘Goodfellas’ Magic in the ‘Sopranos’ Prequel?

When you look back at a classic show like The Sopranos or a near-perfect film like Goodfellas, you have to marvel at how many things went right during production.

In the case of The Sopranos, creator David Chase and his team kept getting the best out of star James Gandolfini and the rest of the cast season after season. Whether staging amateur mob hits or following FBI surveillance units, the production was always convincing.

With Goodfellas, you had Martin Scorsese in his late prime running with a true-crime story for the ages. Meanwhile, Scorsese had Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, and Joe Pesci at their best in the same film. (Pesci won an Oscar for his performance.)

As a strong cast continues assembling for Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark, Variety’s report that Liotta signed on adds another top-notch performer to the fold. Here’s a look at what the veteran actor brings to the table in a much-hyped project.

Liotta’s Newark upbringing during the time ‘Many Saints’ takes place

Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Paul Sorvino, and Joe Pesci publicity portrait for the film ‘Goodfellas’, 1990 | Warner Brothers/Getty Images

In Goodfellas, Liotta played Henry Hill, a Brooklyn kid who got started young and rose through the ranks of the New York mob in the 1960s and ’70s. Through his character’s point-of-view, we see how young men learned to become top earners for a lethal organization.

The Many Saints of Newark film shares some things in common with that story, though working with a fictional crime family. According to earlier reports, we’ll get a look at the generation that came before Tony Soprano with the backdrop of the 1967 Newark riots.

At the time those riots took place, Newark native Ray Liotta was 12 years old. (He later attended high school in Union, New Jersey.) We imagine he’ll have a real feel for the time and place in which Tony Soprano learns the ropes of the family business.

When Tony Soprano comes of age in Newark

Ray Liotta attends the ATX Television Festival at the Paramount Theatre on June 7, 2018 in Austin, Texas. | Rick Kern/Getty Images

If Many Saints of Newark maintains the same timeline as The Sopranos, Tony is very young (about six years old) when the Newark riots break out. However, given the casting of Ganfoldini’s son Michael (now 20), we are likely to see Tony grow into a young man in the prequel.

That element of the story recalls Goodfellas and Hill (Liotta), who graduates from an errand boy without connections in the mob to assisting in the Lufthansa heist.

In Many Saints, Tony Soprano will be joining what is very much the family business. His uncle Dickey Moltisanti (father to Christopher, played by Michael Imperioli on the HBO series) will figure prominently in the story.

Tony’s father Johnny Boy (whom we saw via flashback in the HBO series) and Uncle Junior are a few other Sopranos characters we’re likely to find in the film prequel.

While we don’t know which character Liotta will play, any mob film benefits from his presence. With the creative team and cast already in place, there’s a good chance the next great mob film is getting made in 2019. With some luck, it will recreate the Goodfellas and Sopranos magic.

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