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The Funny Piece Of Advice The Many Saints Of Newark’s Alessandro Nivola Got From David Chase While Prepping For His Role

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HBO’s The Sopranos followed the exploits of modern-day mob boss Tony Soprano, but the upcoming prequel film, The Many Saints of Newark, will shift the focus to a different protagonist. The late ‘60s/early ‘70s movie thrusts the previously unseen Richard "Dickie" Moltisanti into the spotlight. The character is played by American Hustle andFace/Off alum Alessandro Nivola, who was faced with the task of establishing one of the franchise’s most elusive characters. But any pressure he may have felt was seemingly alleviated by a funny piece of advice Sopranos creator David Chase gave him early on.

The late Dickie Moltisanti was referred to on a number of occasions over the course of The Sopranos. James Gandolfini’s Tony in particular mentioned several times that Dickie was something of a mentor to him when he was growing up, which is why he took his son, Christopher, under his own wing. Given that his character had been treated as an urban legend of sorts up to this point, Alessandro Nivola didn’t have much to go off of when he joined the film. But during his preparation, there was one thing he was humorously advised not to do:

Well, you know, when we started filming, David, the first thing he said to me was, ‘Don't listen to anything anyone in the series ever said about your character, because they're all liars!’ So I felt like it was liberating, in that I didn't really have to honor anything that was, you know, any of the mythology about him in the show, because all the characters have kind of, you know, created their own notion of who he is, for different reasons. And Chrissy was so young, my son, when I died, and, and Tony never really knew the man behind the man, which is really what the movie reveals.

So the lack of concrete information on Dickie ultimately worked in the actor’s favor. And as a result, he was able to help create a distinct and layered character that seamlessly fit into this universe. Sure, it’s not hard to believe that this man would be the father of Michael Imperioli’s Christopher, but the two performances couldn’t be any more different. This stems from the fact that Dickie is battling demons that are quite different from the ones his son would face decades later:

He, Dickie, was somebody who presented himself to the world as a guy who had everything under control and was, you know, charming and full of charisma and, in fact, was totally unraveling inside. And so nobody really knew that. He never allowed anyone to see that and just just kind of tore himself apart. So, I felt free to invent the role from my own imagination, and I didn't feel too much pressure to have to deliver something that was already laid out in the show.

On The Sopranos, Christopher suffered from an inferiority complex and, while his role in the DiMeo crime family gradually increased, he still wrestled with whether he wanted to remain a part of it. He was also weighed down by a serious battle with addiction throughout the show’s run. In the movie, Dickie becomes involved in a gang war with his former associate, Harold McBrayer (played by Leslie Odom Jr.). And as he retaliates, Moltisanti must consider how his actions are rubbing off on young Tony.

Alessandro Nivola does a masterful job of portraying every side of Dickie and, when fans see the movie, they’ll surely have a greater understanding of the man who made Tony Soprano. You can see it for yourself when The Many Saints of Newark arrives on October 1 in theaters and on HBO Max, which you can sign up for using this link.

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.