David Chase, the award-winning creator of “The Sopranos,” is looking back — with a prequel film “The Many Saints of Newark.” Playing a young Tony Soprano is 19-year-old Michael Gandolfini, the son of the late “Sopranos” star James Gandolfini, who died of a heart attack in 2013.
The young Gandolfini is the spitting image of his father but had to audition for a role in the film, which also stars Jon Bernthal, Ray Liotta, Vera Farmiga and others.
And as he tells Esquire for its September issue, preparation for the role meant he had to actually watch “The Sopranos” for the first time. As you can imagine, it was not an easy task.
“It was an intense process,” says Gandolfini, who appears on HBO’s show “The Deuce.” “Because, as an actor, I had to watch this guy who created the role, to look for mannerisms, voice, all those things I would have to echo. But then I’d also be seeing my father.”
He added, “I think what made it so hard was I had to do it alone. I was just sitting alone in my dark apartment, watching my dad all the time. I started having crazy dreams. I had one where I auditioned for David [Chase] and I looked down at my hands, and they were my dad’s hands.”
His father’s death spurred him to try acting — and helped him deal with his loss, he tells the magazine.
“From the first day, I fell in love with it,” he says of acting. “It actually started my grieving process with my dad.”
The young Gandolfini also spoke about what episodes were especially tough, yet fulfilling for him to watch.
“There’s a scene where Meadow comes home late at night, and he’s sitting with a drink, and he’s like, ‘You know I love you, right?’ That hit hard. The other one that crushed me was when he yells at A. J., and he gets a pizza to apologize, and he sits by his son’s bed and says, ‘I couldn’t ask for a better son.’ I just knew he was talking to me in that scene,” he added.
“The Many Saints of Newark” is still shooting around New York and New Jersey. The ’60s-set drama is set to hit theaters sometime in 2020.