Awesome casting news for the Sopranos prequel: James Gandolfini's own son will play a young Tony Soprano in The Many Saints of Newark. The feature film from Sopranos creator David Chase is set during the 1960s Newark riots, when black and Italian gangsters in the city clashed, and will focus on Dickie Moltisanti, a mentor to Tony as Tony was being groomed for organized crime leadership by his father, Johnny Boy. As Deadline reports, Michael Gandolfini has been building his acting resume and recently had a breakout role on the HBO drama series The Deuce, and sources say he stood out during an extensive audition process for the young Tony role—in part, not surprisingly, because of his resemblance to Tony Soprano, the character his father made famous. James Gandolfini died in 2013 at age 51.
Sources say the younger Gandolfini also had excellent screen presence, understood the character better than anyone else, and had mastered Tony Soprano's mannerisms. "It’s a profound honor to continue my dad’s legacy while stepping into the shoes of a young Tony Soprano," Gandolfini, 19, says in a statement. "I’m thrilled that I’m going to have the opportunity to work with David Chase and the incredible company of talent he has assembled for The Many Saints of Newark." As CNN notes, social media reaction to the casting news was largely positive. Slate notes that none of the original Sopranos cast members have said they're appearing in the prequel, but there will be a behind-the-scenes reunion, as "Sopranos veteran Alan Taylor is directing from a script by Sopranos veteran Lawrence Konner and Chase himself." (Chase is bored with the "Is Tony dead?" question.)