The Sopranos, one of the most popular and critically acclaimed TV series of the last 20 years, is to return with a big screen prequel.

The working title of the movie spin-off, scripted by the iconic HBO show's original creator, David Chase, is The Many Saints Of Newark.

Chase's screenplay, set in 1960s New Jersey, was co-written with another former Sopranos writer Lawrence Konner and has been bought by New Line Cinema.

Image:'Tony Soprano' James Gandolfini died in 2013

The Sopranos ended after eight years in 2007 and a few of its stars, including leading man James Gandolfini, who played patriarch Tony Soprano, and Frank Vincent, who played Phil Leotardo, have since died.

Story details for the film have not been confirmed, but the chosen time period suggests audiences could see a younger version of Tony's father, Giovanni "Johnny Boy" Soprano, the former captain of the family's mob crew, and his mother, Livia, played unforgettably in the show's first season by Nancy Marchand.

Series creator David Chase (C), with leading actors James Gandolfini and Edie Falco in 2007
Image:Series creator David Chase (centre), with Gandolfini and Edie Falco in 2007

Tony's uncle Junior, played in the series by Godfather actor Dominic Chianese, is also likely to appear.

Toby Emmerich, chairman of New Line and HBO's parent company, Warner Bros Pictures Group, said: "David is a masterful storyteller and we, along with our colleagues at HBO, are thrilled that he has decided to revisit, and enlarge, the Soprano universe in a feature film."

Frank Vincent (R), who died in 2017, with Vincent Pastore at a Sopranos premiere in 2004
Image:Frank Vincent (right), who died in 2017, with fellow Sopranos star Vincent Pastore

The script is finished and, Chase, 72, will help to choose a director.

The groundbreaking TV show ran for six seasons from 1999 to 2007, putting HBO on the map and establishing the market for DVD sales of popular series.

It won 21 Primetime Emmy Awards and five Golden Globes and in the process made stars of its leading names, particularly the late Gandolfini and Edie Falco, who played his wife Carmela, as well as a host of other actors.

Fans will be hoping the big screen reprise fares better than those of fellow HBO long-running series Sex And The City and Entourage, whose spin-off movies were not considered hits.

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