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Two Ways Directing The Many Saints Of Newark Differed From Directing The Sopranos, According To Alan Taylor

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A very light spoiler for The Many Saints of Newark lies ahead.

The Many Saints of Newark manages to expand on the universe David Chase launched years ago with The Sopranos. While the film isn’t a contemporary story, it still feels like a natural extension of the HBO series. This can partly be attributed to the fact that the movie is helmed by veteran Sopranos director Alan Taylor. The filmmaker had no problem stepping back into the franchise, but his directing experience here did differ from his past work in two key ways.

Alan Taylor directed some of the biggest episodes of The Sopranos, including Season 1’s “Pax Soprano” and the show’s fateful penultimate episode, “The Blue Comet.” I recently had the opportunity to speak with Taylor about his work on The Many Saints of Newark and asked him what he was hoping to accomplish in the movie that he couldn’t in the TV series. For him, one of the biggest differences came from the increased production budget:

I mean, there's, there's two ways, I guess. One was, you know that the budget is different than the Warner Bros. movie, that's meant for the big screen you can see, you know, there were some scenes, we were staging for the movie, but also appeared in the series as flashbacks, and it was nice to have the resources to do it, to do it up a little bit. So Johnny Boy getting arrested at the amusement park, it was great to have a real amusement park instead of maybe, you know, two pieces of set dressing that weren't. So it was nice to have the resources to do it.

The director certainly isn’t wrong about the benefits of the larger budget. The scene in which Johnny Soprano is arrested originally appeared in the show’s seventh episode, “Down Neck.” While it was done well there, it definitely looks even better in The Many Saints of Newark. And believe me when I say it’s only one of a number of striking scenes in the film.

Aside from production values, there was also another major change for him this time -- his working relationship with David Chase. One of the reasons The Sopranos worked so well is that at the end of the day, it was fueled by Chase’s singular vision. Though as Taylor explained, this sometimes meant the writer/producer had to step in and take control on certain occasions:

The other thing that was really different, I think, for me, as a director, was probably the relationship to David Chase, because during the series, it felt like there was a very, you know, strong controlling voice from the ivory tower of the writers’ room. And it was partly there, because David was in the room, you know, breaking scripts and all that stuff. And so he wasn't frequently on set. So there, I think there was a tendency to sort of control what we were doing a bit more in case it went awry.

With this, working on the motion picture was seemingly a breath of fresh air for the director. In this case, he was able to have more personal dialogues with the creator, as opposed to getting notes from the writers’ room:

The great thing about the movie was we were only making one thing. And so David was there, and we had a dialogue. And the funny thing was, it wanted to be more free, because it was not sort of a kind of middle management trying to, you know, contain things. It felt like, we were able to just sort of collaborate together. And it felt probably, like, more freedom as a director, I think, than on the show.

The Thor: The Dark World director certainly made the most of the creative freedom that he had. As a seasoned film director, he certainly applied a number of his big-screen sensibilities to the theatrical Sopranos entry. Of course, his past work on the show is also quite impressive, and you can stream the episodes on HBO Max, which you can sign up for using this link.

This new story that Alan Taylor and writers David Chase and Lawrence Konner tell will surely give hardcore fans more of the Sopranos content they’ve been craving since the show finished its run in 2007. And it’ll also change the way audiences view certain aspects of the franchise

The Many Saints of Newark opens in theaters and begins streaming on HBO Max on October 1.

Erik Swann

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.