What Will James Gandolfini’s Son Michael Bring to the ‘Sopranos’ Prequel?

Fans of the classic HBO series The Sopranos never really let it go, and we can’t blame them. When you look at the level of quality the cast and crew brought to each scene, you won’t find an equivalent before or since. So, naturally,  the enthusiasm for the Sopranos prequel film in development has run high in recent months.

Alessandro Nivola will play the character of Dickey Moltisanti (father to Christopher, played by Michael Imperioli in the series) when shooting begins in April. Jon Bernthal (The Punisher) and Vera Farmiga (The Departed) are also on board, as are Corey Stoll (House of Cards) and Billy Magnussen (The Big Short).

One lingering question has been who’ll play young Tony Soprano, the character created so memorably by James Gandolfini. On January 22, Deadline reported that Sopranos creator David Chase, who’s writing and producing the prequel, officially has Gandolfini’s son Michael in the role. Here’s a look at the young actor’s career so far and what convinced producers he’s the man for the job.

Michael Gandolfini in ‘The Deuce’ and ‘Ocean’s 8’

Michael Gandolfini attends HBO’s Official Golden Globe Awards After Party at Circa 55 Restaurant on January 6, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. | Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

This Sopranos prequel won’t be Gandolfini’s first feature film. He had a small role as a busboy in the all-female-lead Ocean’s Eight (2018). But his recurring role as Joey, an odd teenager working in a brothel on HBO’s The Deuce, has likely caught more eyeballs. Coming up in 2019, he’ll play a drunk teen in the family film The Boy, the Dog and the Clown.

Gandolfini hasn’t received glowing reviews for his acting yet, to put it kindly. He’s clearly still learning the craft and needs to build up experience. Working with Magnussen, a young actor who’s shined in Epix’s Get Shorty and several feature films, should provide some guidance. Of course, Chase and veteran director Alan Taylor have every reason to get the most out of Gandolfini.

According to Deadline’s sources, Gandolfini brings what no other actor could: a younger version of Tony Soprano in flesh and blood. No one knows a man quite like his son, and the casting makes perfect sense in this way. Yet we’re curious about Gandolfini’s age (approximately 20) versus the time in which the film is set.

Older than the young Tony seen in ‘Sopranos’ flashbacks

Robert Iler, Michael Gandolfini, and Jamie-Lynn Sigler attend the “The Sopranos” 20th Anniversary Panel Discussion at SVA Theater on January 09, 2019 in New York City. | Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Now that we know the character Gandolfini will play, we’ll attempt to fit that in with everything else we know about the film. To start, the film will take place (at least partly) during the late-1960s Newark riotsSopranos fans may remember glimpses of the era from Season One of the HBO series.

In Episode Seven (“Down Neck”), a very young Tony watches news reports of the riots while his mother Livia irons clothes. However, that Tony is only about six years old. (Michael Gandolfini has more than 10 years on him.) That would lead us to believe the film’s timeline eventually pushes into the late 1970s.

We know Dickey Moltisanti was a mentor to the man who eventually ran the North Jersey mob. So that suggests we’ll get much more than an interesting flashback to an ugly time in Jersey’s past. We’re going to see how Tony Soprano became a man. Who better to portray Tony at that time than Michael Gandolfini?

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