New Jersey

The Mother of All ‘Sopranos' Movies

Plans for a film prequel to the classic HBO mob drama raise the tantalizing possibility of Livia Soprano's comeback.

For all the merciless physical violence meted out by the macho mobsters of "The Sopranos," a seemingly harmless old lady delivered the show's fiercest and most shocking blow.

It came during Season 1 when Livia Soprano hinted that her New Jersey mob boss son, Tony, should be whacked.

"He goes to talk about his mother" to a shrink, she told her brother-in-law, Corrado Soprano, aka Uncle Junior. "He complains, 'She didn't do this, she did that.' I gave my life to my children on a silver platter and this is how he repays me."

Now word, via Deadline, that show creator David Chase plans a prequel film raises the tantalizing possibility of Livia's return – setting up “The Many Saints of Newark” as the mother of all mob movies.

William Wordsworth, who wrote the "child is the father to the man," clearly never met Livia Soprano. For all the talk (and flashbacks) of Tony's long-dead father, Johnny, Livia looms as the most fearsome character on a show brimming with sociopaths.

The manipulative and vindictive mom not only drove her son to Dr. Melfi's office – she drove the action, even after actress Nancy Marchand died 1 1/2 years into the classic HBO drama's run. Strains of Livia's mix of crocodile tears and cold blood coursed not only through her tormented son, but flared in her daughter Janice, whose slaying of her abusive boyfriend marked perhaps the second-biggest "Sopranos" shocker.

Prequels, from the "X-Men" to the "Star Wars" series, can offer tantalizing glimpses into the backstories of heroes, villains and anti-heroes, alike. But as “Star Wars” fans can attest, the potential for disappointment hovers.

The best model for “Newark” rests in the "The Godfather: Part II." That’s not just because of the mob DNA Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo’s epic gave "The Sopranos": The Don Corleone origin story illuminated the first film, making it resonate all the more in subsequent viewings.

“The Sopranos” prequel, according to Deadline, will take place circa 1967 – when Tony was a boy being raised by a hot-tempered mobster dad and controlling mom. New glimpses into the forces that shaped Tony and Livia could spur additional insight into an endlessly analyzed show that helped change television.

The 2007 “Sopranos” finale, like the “The Godfather: Part III,” left many wanting more. Chase, more than a decade after the end of his greatest triumph, heads back to his source material with a golden opportunity to present fans another helping of Livia, on a silver platter.

Hester is Director of News Products and Projects at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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