'The Many Saints of Newark' Star Alessandro Nivola Talks Building 'Sopranos' Character Dickie Moltisanti (Exclusive)
Fourteen years after a controversial series finale that went on to become one of the most talked-about endings in pop culture history, beloved mafia drama The Sopranos is back with a fresh reinvention for the big screen with the highly anticipated prequel, The Many Saints of Newark. While the series revolved around mob boss Tony Soprano — portrayed by James Gandolfini and played this time around by the late actor's son, Michael Gandolfini — the movie takes a solid look at the patriarchal influence of young Anthony Soprano from enigmatic big-time mafioso, Richard "Dickie" Moltisanti, played by actor Alessandro Nivola.
In an exclusive with PopCulture.com, Nivola, who earned critical acclaim for his work in films like American Hustle and Selma, admits it was a unique experience bringing his character to life. After all, fans only know "Dickie" through the stories shared by his son Christopher (Michael Imperioli) and nephew, Tony (James Gandolfini) on The Sopranos.
"What you know from the show was either made up by the characters in the show, Chrissy and Tony, or the public persona that Dickie projected when he was still alive, which we come to understand in the movie is not really what's going on inside of him," Nivola said. "The only people who are privy to what's going on — to the unraveling of this man — is the audience because he won't tell anyone else, even the people that he goes to."
Nivola adds that because of this discreet personality trait "Dickie" projects, he can transition from charming to frightening. It's also this aspect of his character that ultimately finds himself at odds throughout the film, especially in being a father-figure to Anthony. "When ["Dickie"] goes to visit Ray [Liotta] in the prison — he goes there to confess to unburden himself and all he does is lie," Nivola said. "So, really, the excitement of the role is this private suffering that he's living with because of the legacy of violence that he's grown up in with an abusive father."
Nivola's on-screen father is played by none other than living legend and mob movie royalty Ray Liotta, who told PopCulture it was a "great" experience starring in The Sopranos world as Aldo "Hollywood Dick" Moltisanti for a rather multilayered performance. "It was fun, and it happened out of the blue. [Sopranos series creator] David [Chase] just one day came up to me and said, 'Do you want to do this?' I said, 'Whoa, yeah, let me take this on. This'll be a fun little challenge."
In an interview with iNews earlier this week, Nivola revealed starring alongside Liotta was a thrilling experience as he was not only "most excited" to work with the Goodfellas actor, but he was "most scared" of him too. "First of all, he was really from Newark and had probably had the closest experience to the world of the film of any of us. And also because he takes acting very seriously. He's extremely committed to it," Nivola said. "I was really nervous, but two weeks into shooting, he sent me a text telling me that I reminded him of himself as Henry Hill [in Goodfellas]. That was just the greatest affirmation I could ever have asked for."
The Many Saints of Newark hits theaters on Oct. 1 and will also be available to stream for 30 days on HBO Max. For more on the movie and all your Sopranos news, keep it locked to PopCulture.com for the latest.