The Many Saints of Newark is a prequel to the hit HBO drama series The Sopranos, which ran for six seasons, starring James Gandolfini as an Italian-American mob boss and filmed predominantly in New Jersey. The Many Saints of Newark‘s filming locations remain mostly in New Jersey, but also include several boroughs of New York City as well as Yonkers. The film stars Gandolfini’s son, Michael Gandolfini, as well as Alessandro Nivola, Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal of The Punisher and The Wolf of Wall Street, Corey Stahl, and Vera Farmiga.
The Many Saints of Newark needed to recreate the Newark of 1967 and the early ’70s. As such, they filmed on location in Newark itself, as well as in other New Jersey towns like Paterson, Bloomfield and Jersey City. The production team says that locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Yonkers also served as filming locations for The Many Saints of Newark, “in areas that recall the Newark of an earlier era.” Joker was also filmed in Newark, substituting for Gotham.
In the opening scene of The Many Saints of Newark you may recognize the brick and steel former train station at Liberty State Park in New Jersey with a young Tony Soprano walking with Dickie on what’s shown to be a Manhattan west side pier, a la the kind that welcomed the large ocean liners like Cunard’s ships.
Production designer Bob Shaw says that controlling the exterior environment to allow for period authenticity was demanding: “In a period film, you try to control how much you’re outside, because you have a myriad of things—street signs, Muni meters—and all these things that didn’t exist back then. So that’s the challenge in doing so many exteriors and on so many big commercial streets.”
Another major challenge was recreating the Newark riots of July 1967. In the film, Dickie (played by Nivola) is a member of the DiMeo crime family based in New Jersey and takes in a young Tony Soprano like the son he doesn’t have yet. Dickie and Tony view Newark burning in the film, while Harold (played by Odom, Jr.), a friend of Dickie’s, gets caught in the thick of the riot.
Most of the riot scenes are filmed on two blocks of Branford Place in downtown Newark, and recreated with “extensive research into visual records,” according to the production team. The buildings on Branford Place survived the riot and were used for their “early- to mid-century character underneath their modern additions.”
These are functioning businesses, so we had to do a little bit at a time,” says Shaw. “We had to change virtually every storefront, and you have to have the cooperation of the people who own or rent the stores. Then you ask, as nicely as you can, ‘Would you be okay with us smashing your windows? Or ripping your awning down?’” In addition, “hundreds of locals” were hired for the scenes to portray people on all sides of the riot, including protestors, looters, National Guard, and the police. Shaw was pleasantly surprised that local residents and passers-by wanted to speak to him about the riots during the production. He says, “It was really interesting when people just stopped by to share their remembrance of the time.”
Next, check out the filming locations for Only Murders in the Building.