David Chase has found his leading paisan for The Many Saints of Newark, New Line Cinema’s feature-length prequel to the landmark TV series The Sopranos. Variety reports that Alessandro Nivola is in negotiations to play Richard “Dickey” Moltisanti, big brother figure to James Gandolfini‘s Tony Soprano and father of Michael Imperioli‘s Christopher Moltisanti.
Nivola has been doing mostly one-off character performances since 1997 when he appeared as the younger brother of Nicolas Cage‘s Castor Troy in Face/Off. Recently, the actor portrayed Bernie Madoff’s son Mark in HBO’s original film The Wizard of Lies, which starred Robert De Niro as the elder Madoff.
A Vietnam vet and footman in the DiMeo crime family, Dickey Moltisanti had already been killed by the time audiences met Tony Soprano and his family in the HBO series’ initial run. According to the incredibly unreliable Tony, Dickey Moltisanti was gunned down outside his home when his son was just an infant by New Jersey Detective Lt. Barry Haydu, who Christopher later murders in the season four premiere, “For All Debts Public and Private.”
Exact plot details are under wraps on The Many Saints of Newark outside the fact the film takes place during the race riots that took place in Newark in the 1960’s. Chase wrote the script with Lawrence Konnor (Boardwalk Empire) and Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) is set to direct. According to the report, more familiar names casually mentioned during The Sopranos‘ six-season run are expected to be cast for the film.
So far, so exciting, but the question remains whether anything the film accomplishes can touch the highs of The Sopranos itself, which set the bar for what could be achieved with small-screen storytelling. From what I’ve seen Nivola is a fine actor, but Gandolfini’s portrayal of Tony Soprano—which turned knuckle biting and heavy nose-breathing into an art form—is one of the finest acting jobs in any story, TV or film.