IndieWire says that on the most recent episode of the Talking Sopranos podcast, Sopranos actors Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa dropped some news about a payoff that went down between HBO and star of the series, the sadly deceased James Gandolfini. It seems that James was once offered to replace Steve Carrell on The Office, but HBO didn’t want to tarnish one of their most iconic actors with something as drab as television comedy so they made James a different offer he couldn’t refuse! $3 million to not get a job.
On the podcast episode, Michael and Steve talked to Ricky Gervais and let him know a little secret about James’ post-Sopranos work. James passed away in 2013 after a long career that saw him land the role of one of the most iconic mafiosos in television history, Tony Soprano. The series ended in 2007 and with that came new options for work. After Steve Carrell left The Office in 2010, the show looked into a bunch of big names to take over, and apparently, James was one of them. But at the time he was filming the HBO limited series The Night Of. James did the first episode before he passed away and was replaced by John Turturro. So Michael and Steve revealed that HBO paid James off to not get a comedy gig on network television. Michael said:
“You know, they talked about having Gandolfini at one point replace him… Did you know that?”
Schirripa added, “I think before James Spader and after [Steve] Carell, they offered [Gandolfini], I want to say, $4 million to play him for the season — and HBO paid him $3 million not to do it. That’s a fact.”
The actors speculated that HBO possibly didn’t want James to do the show because they didn’t want something as common as The Office to impact the legacy of The Sopranos. Or possibly because of scheduling conflicts with The Night Of.
Apparently, James was very choosy with work anyway, as Edie Falco (who played his wife, Carmela Soprano) revealed this past April that the two of them actually did one post-Sopranos job as their Sopranos characters and it was a short film for the New York Knicks who wanted to get LeBron James to play for them.
“We got those requests all the time back then and [James] Gandolfini, he did nothing. And somehow, he agreed to this thing, which I was shocked by. I thought it was a prank when someone said he’s going to do it…[and then] there he was, dressed as Tony. He must have been a bigger basketball fan than I realized.”
I think that James should have said yes to The Office but only if he got to play Tony Soprano as their boss. Many of those characters would have benefited from a bit of Mafia toughness. I’m looking at you, Dwight.