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Many Saints Star Michael Gandolfini Makes A Stunning Admission About The Sopranos

When the landmark HBO series "The Sopranos" drew to its ambiguous conclusion in 2007, creator David Chase excitingly left the door open for audiences to one day see more of New Jersey crime boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini). However, fans' hope of ever seeing more of the character diminished greatly when Gandolfini tragically passed away in June 2013 at the age of 51.

Now, eight years after Gandolfini's passing, Chase has found a way to bring Tony Soprano back with the upcoming "Sopranos" prequel film, "The Many Saints of Newark." The film ventures back to the late 1960s and early '70s to examine the early days of important "Sopranos" figures like Uncle Junior (Corey Stoll), Paulie Walnuts (Billy Magnussen), Silvio Dante (John Magaro), and Livia Soprano (Vera Farmiga).

The movie also features characters who were either only mentioned or briefly featured in the series, including Tony's father, Johnny Boy Soprano (Jon Bernthal), and Richard "Dickie" Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola). Dickie is the main character of "The Many Saints of Newark" and serves as the mentor of the young Tony Soprano (played by James Gandolfini's real-life son, Michael) in it.

The interesting thing is, while Michael Gandolfini was already facing the gargantuan task of filling his father's legendary shoes in "The Many Saints of Newark" (albeit as a younger iteration of Tony), there was another hurdle that the young actor had to conquer when Chase asked him to audition for the film.

Michael Gandolfini never watched The Sopranos before he auditioned for The Many Saints of Newark

While it'd be reasonable to think the actors featured in "The Many Saints of Newark" were already familiar with "The Sopranos" when they were cast in the film, that wasn't actually the case with Michael Gandolfini. As a matter of fact, the young actor hadn't watched the series prior to auditioning to play Tony Soprano in the upcoming prequel. "I remember asking my dad, maybe at 13, what the h**l is this? Why do I hear about this all the time? What is this about? He's like, 'It's about this mobster who goes to therapy, and I don't know, that's about it,'" Gandolfini revealed to The New York Times.

The actor, who was born four months after "The Sopranos" took television by storm in 1999, auditioned for "The Many Saints of Newark" after having lunch with Chase and his wife. Unsatisfied with the other young actors who were trying out for the role of the adolescent Tony Soprano, Chase asked Gandolfini to try out for the part. The young actor immediately found himself in a quandary, though, because prior to that he had apparently only seen pieces of the "Sopranos" pilot.

Left with no choice, Gandolfini watched the entire first season of "The Sopranos" by himself, an experience that he found to be quite emotional. "It was hard to watch my dad alone and then having no one to lean onto," the actor admitted.

Playing Tony Soprano turned out to be even more difficult than Michael Gandolfini expected

Thankfully, Michael Gandolfini, whose previous screen credits include a recurring role on "The Deuce" and a supporting role opposite Tom Holland in the Russo Brothers' "Cherry," was able to overcome the jitters of stepping in front of the camera for "The Many Saints of Newark." However, even after getting over the hump of watching "The Sopranos," Gandolfini says he was met with another unexpected problem: to essentially assume the role of his father and the role of Tony Soprano at the same time.

"The pressure is real. There's fear. But the second layer, that a lot of people don't think about, which was actually harder, is to play Tony Soprano," Gandolfini told The New York Times. "Not only was it the feeling of my dad — it was like, Tony Soprano is a [expletive] hard character."

"The Many Saints of Newark" opens in theaters nationwide and streams exclusively on HBO Max on Friday, October 1.