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In a new interview with Empire magazine, the actor, who is taking on his first major movie role after making his big-screen debut in Ocean’s 8, said that the decision to take on the character his father played to critical acclaim was “probably the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make,” and explained how he managed the pressure and grief associated with playing the character.
“You know, I didn’t want to put pressure on myself to walk out of this feeling like I’d grown in terms of my feelings towards my dad. I just wanted to be the best actor I could be, portraying Tony in the way David wanted, scene by scene. I didn’t think about my grief because… well, I would have shit the bed,” Gandolfini said, laughing.
Director Alan Young told The Hollywood Reporter that Michael had to go through the full audition process for the role, but that he and writer David Chase knew they had made the right decision casting him after he gave a speech during a dinner with the movie’s team. “Michael stood up and said he wanted to thank everybody for giving him this chance to say hello to his father again, and to say goodbye again,” Taylor recalled.
The decision to cast Michael in the Sopranos prequel didn’t just mean the young actor had to step into his father’s shoes. He also had the challenge of portraying Tony Soprano at a very different time in the character’s life. Young told THR that the team worked to ensure his performance wasn’t too much like his father’s for a role the Many Saints of Newark actor describes as almost an inverse version of the Tony audiences know.
“My dad’s character had all this beautiful sensitivity underneath this aggression,” Michael said. “This version of him is the reverse. His curiosity and sensitivity comes first. He’s not a gun-wielding gangster. He’s a kid who gets whittled down and pulled in.”
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