Sopranos stans and mob movie lovers headed to Atlantic City in droves this weekend to be a part of the first MobMovieCon. Fans arrived at Harrah’s Resort and Casino on Saturday, July 24, wearing their best Sopranos, Godfather, and Goodfellas merch while the stars from the most iconic films and shows sat down at their tables waiting to meet and greet them. The two-day event promised to give fans an unforgettable experience as everyone collectively celebrated their love and adoration for the mob movie genre. In 2019, the convention focused solely on The Sopranos but this year, the creators wanted to expand it to the gangster film genre to include even more beloved shows and movies they knew fans were passionate about.
MobMovieCon attendees lined up to take photos with and get autographs from Goodfellas and The Sopranos’ Lorraine Bracco, Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito, A Bronx Tale’s Lillo Brancato and Taral Hicks, and other legendary actors. Bracco’s beloved role as Dr. Melfi in The Sopranos and as Karen in Goodfellas had the line to go into her booth wrapped around the convention center. The dedicated fans waited hours to go into the room that was designed to look like Dr. Melfi’s therapist office where she met with Tony on a weekly basis on the HBO series.
Aside from the mob movie-inspired art and Italian street festival-style food vendors that filled the conference center, the event also had panels with the stars and the SopranosCon creators as well as a cannoli eating contest and a cosplay contest. The panel room filled up with people dressed as their favorite characters from the HBO series and other mob films, including several guys in bathrobes like Tony Soprano, guys in tracksuits, others dressed like Ray Liotta’s Goodfellas character Henry Hill, and some dressed like Tony Montana from Scarface. Joe Murphy from Brooklyn battled it out against a guy dressed as Paulie Walnuts, taking home the prize for best costume for his cosplay of The Sopranos’ beloved character Silvio Dante. Not only were his hair, outfit, and demeanor all on point, but his impersonation of Tony Soprano’s right-hand man blew the crowd away. It was an easy win for Murphy and he said being chosen by fellow fans who loved the series as much as he did was an honor. “It’s a big deal to win. I grew up with The Sopranos. All the mafia movies. And it was always said to me that I looked like Silvio with my hair, so then I started imitating him all the time. Now I come here and win the costume contest and it’s a real honor, it really is,” Murphy told Complex. “It’s a big part of my life. I grew up with that since I was a kid and it really means a lot to me.”
Attendees were also given surprise news regarding an upcoming sequel for one of their beloved films. It was announced that Armand Assante, who played John Gotti in the film Gotti: The Rise and Fall of a Real Life Mafia Don, will be returning for the upcoming Gotti Il: The Final Chapter, Facts Undisputed. “Gotti II, the long-awaited sequel to the 1996 multiple PrimeTime Emmy Award-winning Gotti, will be made and will begin filming immediately,” the CEO of VirtualCons, Michael Mota, said in a statement. “Returning in the title role is Armand Assante, the celebrated actor who took home the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Special Emmy for his powerful, moving portrayal of John Gotti. I might add that Armand serves as Chairman of the Board of VirtualCons.”
Federico Castelluccio, who is best known for his role as Furio Giunta in The Sopranos, is one of the SopranosCon’s partners, and he seemed delighted to finally be at the event after almost a year of delays due to COVID. “It really feels great. In 2019 we really didn’t realize how much of a need there was for fans to come out and meet with us and to come out and shake our hands and say how much they loved us. Without the fans, we’re nothing. They’re the ones who really make these shows and really love these characters,” the actor told Complex. “The Sopranos, the writing was incredible, the acting was great, and the music too. It left you with this interesting feeling. It was a fantastic feeling seeing all these fans come back out after the long pandemic.” Castelluccio and the rest of the team knew that this year, they could grow their audience by including the whole mob genre into the event: “We saw the response of SopranosCon, and we said, you know what, I think we should just open it up to other films. Why limit it just to The Sopranos? And just bring in these wonderful actors from all over the world and all over the country that have done great films, great mob films in that particular genre.”
The crowd, although not as diverse as expected in terms of race, did seem much younger than the first year, which was mostly men in their 30s and above. Thanks to The Sopranos being available for streaming on HBO Max, the audience for the series has expanded to people who were born even after the show originally aired on HBO. “Today I asked two young people, ‘How old are you if you don’t mind me asking? They’re like, 16.’ Two different people. They said they were binge-watching during the COVID pandemic, so now we have this whole new contingency of fans, younger fans that are coming out of the woodworks,” Castelluccio said. There were a few people at the event dressed like Furio, and the actor is still in disbelief over just how much this role impacted his life. “Playing Furio, first of all, Furio was just a wonderful character to sink your teeth into. He was a complex character who came from Italy to New Jersey, a little bit like my own background. I come from Naples, Italy, and moved to New Jersey. Basically, what happened was when I wound up getting on the show and playing that character, people really gravitated towards that character. Whether it was men, women, they all really liked this character,” he said. “It basically changes your life overnight. It took about 10 years but all of a sudden your anonymity is gone. Your whole life is changed but it’s OK. People in the business, people you never thought would ever know you or know your work, famous actors that you’ve been admiring over the years come up to you and love your work, which is the greatest feeling in the world.”
Complex also caught up with Lillo Brancato, who starred as Calogero Anello in Robert De Niro’s directorial debut, A Bronx Tale in 1993 as he waited for fans to line up for autographs. “Just for me in general, I’m so blessed to have this opportunity. I’m so happy to be here. After the year and a half, or whatever it was, that we have experienced, it’s really great to be out here with everyone again and I hope everyone feels safe and I think that the pandemic still affected today’s turn out a little bit. I think there are still some people [who are fearful], as they should be,” the actor said about being at the convention. “I’m really thankful to Michael Mota for the opportunity and it’s great to see all these fans. Without them we wouldn’t be here, we would have no reason to be here without the fans. So I’m very thankful for them as well.”
Nearly 30 years after its release, A Bronx Tale is easily one of the most popular movies of the genre. “When we first made the movie, we never knew that it would be what it is today. Once again the fans made it what it is today. Sometimes I can’t even wrap my head around the fact that I’m a big part of cinema history, because I was a big part of that film. More due in part because of the opportunity that Robert De Niro and Chazz Palminteri gave me and the trust they put in me to take on that role and to do it justice. I’m thankful for that, it’s the gift that keeps giving,” Brancato says. Brancato also played Matthew Bevilaqua, a young mobster on The Sopranos. He says that he has noticed the recent spark in interest on the show 21 years after its release. “I think it’s more on social media. You get many more followers and then you’re like, what happened? Then you see that Sopranos, they just put it on HBO Max. It’s really a great thing. That’s another show that’s arguably the best ever and I’ve been part of that as well. Even to be just part of A Bronx Tale just to have been in it, to have been in two things that are so iconic and so classic, I’m absolutely blessed,” he adds. “I think people are drawn to this genre, a lot of the guys especially, because a lot of these characters are gangsters and killers, and do things that a lot of guys wish they can do but they can’t so they live vicariously through these characters. They’re somewhat fulfilled through doing that. Not 100 percent fulfilled as if they did it themselves but enough fulfillment to where they will keep watching the films to keep getting that feeling.”
The first day ended with the first Mob Movie Awards, hosted by Ice-T and comedian Justina Valentine. Fans who purchased the VIP passes were able to attend and enjoy a three-course dinner surrounded by their favorite stars. Awards were given out to the actors and films with categories including best actor, which went to the late James Gandolfini, best film, which went to The Godfather: Part II, and best actress, which went to Lorraine Bracco.
Due to scheduling and the pandemic, the event organizers had just under two months to prepare the event. That said, the turnout was decent—given that many are still cautious when it comes to being in large crowds. For MobMovieCon fans though, being surrounded by fellow movie lovers—and their favorite stars—trumped any fear, leading to a dope tribute to this genre.