Okay, it’s not the same thing as Al Pacino as Michael Corleone proclaiming that every time he thinks he’s out, they pull him back in, but there’s nonetheless something comforting about the idea of Ray Liotta — Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese‘s 1990 masterpiece Goodfellas — returning to his mob roots. Ray, 64, has joined the cast of The Many Saints of Newark, movie prequel to HBO’s The Sopranos, which is being guided creatively by series creator David Chase.
“I am thrilled to be working with David Chase and Alan Taylor on The Many Saints of Newark,” Liotta said in a statement. “David’s talent is unmatched and the directing of Alan Taylor makes this even more exciting. I respect them both immensely and look forward to making this special project with New Line.”
Other members of the film’s cast include Alessandro Nivola, Vera Farmiga, Jon Bernthal, Billy Magnussen, Corey Stoll, and the late James Gandolfini‘s son, Michael Gandolfini, who plays the young Tony Soprano.
At this point, it’s not exaggerating to say that HBO’s The Sopranos is one of the most influential television series of this generation. Focusing on the family and la familia of Italian-American mobster Tony Soprano, it’s a show that sprung from the imagination of writer/producer David Chase (who got his start on Bill Bixby‘s The Magician and the Darren McGavin horror series Kolchak: The Night Stalker), and it’s understandable why he was reluctant to revisit this material following the show’s end in 2007. Until now.
As noted, the film’s director is Alan Taylor, who not only directed episodes of the original series but the feature films Thor: The Dark World and Terminator: Genisys as well. The script is written by Chase and frequent series collaborator Lawrence Konner.
The setting will be during the race riots in Newark that took place in the 1960s. In an interview with Deadline, Chase explained, “I was interested in Newark and life in Newark at that time. I used to go down there every Saturday night for dinner with my grandparents. But the thing that interests me most was Tony’s boyhood. I was interested in exploring that.”
That exploration will take place against the backdrop of rising tensions between whites and blacks during that period, which the young Tony Soprano will be a part of. Chase admits that he was against the idea of a movie and is actually still uncomfortable with doing this prequel, but the combination of exploring Newark at the time coupled with that era’s organized crime proved irresistible to him. As was the idea of taking a look at the Mafia of that time.
“It is going to depict when it was good,” he revealed. “The mafia was very polished [then]; how they dressed and what they did. Those traditions were followed more loosely in the series. These weren’t guys who wore tracksuits back then.”
No word yet on a release date.