Fans of the mobster genre are sure to be intrigued by the welcome news this week of plans for a prequel movie to the celebrated The Sopranos franchise. The phenomenally successful US drama is set to bounce back on to the silver screen after screenwriter and director David Chase confirmed his collaboration with Lawrence Konner on a new script.

Backdrop of Newark race riots

With the fresh venture still clearly in its early days, the working title is understood to have been penned as 'The Many Saints of Newark'. That choice reflects the backdrop for Chase’s project centring around the disturbing Newark Race Riots in 1960s New Jersey in America, as he explores the rise of the Soprano’s crew during the decade.

The violent and confrontational events in Newark in the summer of 1967 were consistent with more than 100 other similar race riots that swept across the United States’ cities at the time, as unrest led to rioting, looting and wanton destruction of property. There were fatalities in the aftermath, with 26 people believed to have died as a direct result and hundreds more left injured.

Gandolfini became a major star

Chase was the brains behind the original HBO television series that proved to be a massive hit with his target television audience, making the fictional lead character Tony Soprano (portrayed wonderfully by the late James Gandolfini) into a household name. The underlying violent but thought-provoking storyline gripped viewers, running for six series from the late 1990s up to 2007.

Critical acclaim and awards

Such was its popularity and critical acclaim at the time, The Sopranos scooped a staggering 21 Primetime Emmy Awards in addition to five prized Golden Globe accolades. Critics have commonly regarded it as one of the finest television series of all time, as it followed the events in the life of an Italian-American mobster going through a mid-life crisis.

On the psychiatrist’s couch

A key ingredient to the show was Gandolfini’s interactions with his psychiatrist Jennifer Melfi, played by the astute Lorraine Bracco, as they explored his precarious balancing of a busy home life with running a major criminal organisation. His sessions under the watchful eye of Melfi allowed his thoughts and reflections to be analysed and brought to the attention of the viewers as a result.

No return for Tony Soprano?

With several familiar characters from the TV series expected to feature in the film, including Tony’s father and Uncle Junior, the project may attract interest from dedicated followers amid a turbulent time in America’s history. It is likely to prove a challenge to resurrect its mass appeal, however, after the sudden death of Gandolfini in 2013 led to many interested parties ruling such a project out.