Many Saints of Newark features Ray Liotta as both Dickie Moltisanti’s father, “Hollywood Dick,” and his Uncle Sal, whom fan theory posits may not be real – and here’s an explanation behind that theory. The Sopranos prequel hit theaters and HBO Max on October 1, gifting fans of the franchise with a slightly more precursory look at its main character, Tony, as well as his “Uncle” Dickie (Alessandro Nivola).
An unforeseen component of the film is that there’s much more focus on Dickie, his own inner turmoil, and his eventual death, as opposed to what many thought would be a Tony-centered origin story. Nivola plays Dickie’s troubled, multi-faceted Many Saints of Newark lead character extremely well, fleshing out a great deal about him, his history, and what drives him with only relatively short snapshots from his life.
There are a handful of people in the prequel that help in showcasing who Dickie truly is, and two of them are, undoubtedly, Ray Liotta’s two characters. As previously mentioned, the legendary actor plays both Dickie’s father, Hollywood Dick, and his imprisoned Uncle Sal, who’s also Hollywood Dick’s identical twin. At first, it’s shocking to see a man that looks just like Hollywood Dick right in the initial wake of his brutal death. However, interestingly, there’s a definite case for the theory that Sal isn’t a real person at all within the film.
The Evidence Ray Liotta’s Sal Isn’t Real In Many Saints Of Newark
One notable reason that Dickie’s relationship with Sal could either be all in his head or exist as some kind of classically Sopranos dream sequence is that their meetings feel different than the rest of the movie. The visits are isolated from the rest of the film’s characters and have an almost ethereal, non-reality feel to them. Not only that but Dickie seems like a starkly different man while visiting his uncle than he does outside the prison’s walls. When he’s out in the world, he’ll kill his father and mistress in fits of rage and conduct mafia-related business without any second thoughts. However, when he’s speaking with Sal, he seems remorseful for his ways. He even says he wants to atone via a “good deed” when Sal questions him about the reason behind his first visit, and he has visions of himself being a beloved little league coach.
In addition, the movie makes it clear from the very beginning that characters who aren’t living, or aren’t traditionally “real,” certainly aren’t implausible within the story. Christopher himself narrates certain Many Saints of Newark scenes from beyond the grave. He’s filling the audience in from the future after an adult version of Tony has already killed him. And not only that, but he wouldn’t have been alive for or old enough to understand/witness the events the prequel chronicles. Yet, he takes viewers on a ride through the crime family’s history with plenty of insight and awareness. Just like The Sopranos, The Many Saints of Newark isn’t bound to the constraints of what’s conventionally real, unreal, or 100% possible. There’s plenty of semi-ambiguous grey area interwoven into the franchise’s universe.
Dickie’s Uncle Not Being Real Would Fit With The Sopranos’ Themes
The Sopranos always delved heavily into the psychology of its characters, most notably with its signature use of previously mentioned dream sequences. It’s not every day that a mobster-centered series relies heavily on abstract, layered, and even comical dreams to reveal information or further drive home a main plot point. Yet, that kind of quirky brand of symbolism was smoothly incorporated into The Sopranos. The crime drama also injected quite a few instances of the paranormal, which were treated as very real.
Memorable dream examples include “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero appearing to Tony as a dead fish, Tony showing up as a rabid Rottweiler to protect Melfi from her rapist, Tony riding a giant version of his horse, “Pie-O-My,” through the house, and Tony’s season 6 coma dream where he saw his mother’s ghost. More supernatural examples include how viewers got a glimpse of Big Pussy’s ghost in a mirror before Livia’s wake, the cat that haunted Tony and the crime family after Christopher’s death, and how Tony was often haunted by the spirits of those he’d killed or been close to in his dreams.
What Liotta’s Sal Really Means For Dickie In Many Saints Of Newark
According to this theory that Sal isn’t real, he serves a very specific purpose for Dickie’s character. In fact, this means he and Dickie share the same kind of therapeutic dynamic that Tony and Dr. Melfi did in The Sopranos. Whether or not it’s real, his time with Sal allows him to hash out what’s on his mind and what’s plaguing him. He can confront the worst parts of himself – which Sal helps with by seeing through his fake causes of death for Giuseppina and Hollywood Dick – as well as his most shameful actions and thoughts. Likewise, he can try to project the repentant, beloved version of himself that he seemingly wishes to be.
There’s also a sense that Dickie is trying to find atonement for his sins through Sal. Ray Liotta’s dual casting as the two very different characters of him and Hollywood Dick is an intriguing creative choice, and this “Sal Isn’t Real” theory makes the concept all the more clever. The actor’s two roles not only mirror Dickie’s starkly different sides, but they also allow for a very literal kind of answering for killing his father. Even after the man’s death, he still can’t escape him and how he’s responsible for murdering him. Additionally, Sal’s Many Saints of Newark character is able to give Dickie some of the wisdom, guidance, and constructive tough love that he never received from his father. The idea of a supernatural or dream version of Sal, who’s identical to the late Hollywood Dick, dishing out these kinds of hard, honest nuggets of truth makes perfect sense – and this supports the theory that his character isn’t actually real.