HBO reportedly brought in the cash to persuade Sopranos star James Gandolfini to leave a big part on NBC’s The Office.
According to Sopranos co-star Michael Imperioli, the money sacks are valued around $3 million.
Imperioli co-hosts the Talking Sopranos podcast with fellow Sopranos co-star Steve Schirripa, and during a recent episode, he dropped the bombshell information nugget, putting into context how much HBO valued the legacy of The Sopranos by paying big money to persuade Gandolfini not to appear on the hit sitcom.
“I think they offered Jim, I want to say $4 million to play him for the season before James Spader and after [Steve] Carell — and HBO paid him $3 million not to do it,” Imperioli stated in a recent podcast session. “It is a fact.”
The Office was in the midst of a transitional moment in its tenure, with series lead Steve Carrell departing after his seven-year contract expired in 2011, leaving the showrunners and producers with the difficult challenge of casting an established actor in his place for the eighth season.
Gandolfini and James Spader were the final two candidates for the lead part, and Gandolfini initially accepted it before HBO came in with the money offer to let it go.
According to The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History, a book written by author Andy Greene that covered this development in the show’s history, producers on The Office wanted Gandolfini first, even though the actor felt he wasn’t the right fit for the role, but he ended up taking it for a brief period before backing out.
While Gandolfini apparently chose HBO’s money offer, James Spader eventually secured the part and participated in the entirety of the show’s eighth season.
Before Gandolfini was sought for a role in the NBC sitcom, The Sopranos had been wrapped and off the air for four years.
However, Ricky Gervais, star of the original UK version of The Office and a guest on the Talking Sopranos episode when this scenario was discussed, assumed the money offer was made to protect the crime drama’s renowned history.
“So they paid him that to keep ‘The Sopranos’ legacy pure?” Gervais posed the question to the hosts. “Well, that was a wise choice.”
Gandolfini died of a heart attack two years later, in 2013. Michael Gandolfini, his son, will play a teenage version of his late father’s Tony Soprano character in The Many Saints of Newark, a prequel film to The Sopranos.
- James Gandolfini: JASON LAVERIS/FILMMAGIC