Time and time again, we are reminded that money does indeed rule all in the world. The newest development on that front comes from HBO, who allegedly brought in the money bags in order to convince Sopranos star James Gandolfini to step down from a prominent role in NBC’s The Office. Specifically, about $3 millions worth of money bags, according to Sopranos co-star Michael Imperioli.
Imperioli hosts a podcast with fellow Sopranos co-star Steve Schirripa called Talking Sopranos, and he dropped the bombshell information nugget during a recent episode which puts into context how much HBO valued the legacy of The Sopranos by putting up the big bucks to persuade Gandolfini not to appear on the hit sitcom.
“I think before James Spader and after [Steve] Carell, they offered Jim, I want to say $4 million to play him for the season — and HBO paid him $3 million not to do it,” Imperioli said during a recent podcast episode. “That’s a fact.”
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The Office was going through a transitional period in the show’s run – series lead Steve Carrell left the show after his seven-year contract had ended in 2011, leaving the showrunners and producers the daunting task of filling his role with an established actor for the eighth season. Candidates to assume that lead role were narrowed down to Gandolfini and James Spader, and Gandolfini initially took on the role before HBO came in with the money offer to let it go. Producers on The Office wanted Gandolfini first even though the actor felt like he wasn’t the right fit for the role, but he ended up taking it for a brief period before backing out, 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.
James Spader eventually got the role and appeared in the majority of the show’s eighth season, while Gandolfini allegedly took the money offer made by HBO. By 2011, The Sopranos had been wrapped up and off the air for four years before Gandolfini was scouted for a role in the NBC sitcom. But Ricky Gervais, star of the original UK version of The Office and the guest on the episode of Talking Sopranos where this situation was discussed, presumed the money offer was made to preserve the crime drama’s iconic legacy.
“So they paid him that to keep the legacy of ‘The Sopranos’ pure?” Gervais asked the hosts. “Well, that’s a good decision.”
Gandolfini passed away two years later due to a heart attack in 2013. His son, Michael Gandolfini, will star in The Many Saints of Newark, a prequel film to The Sopranos where he will portray a teenage version of his late father’s Tony Soprano character.