James Gandolfini Gave ‘Sopranos’ Costars $33k After Tense Contract Negotiations

  • James Gandolfini once paid for his movie “Soprano” $33,000 after tense contract negotiations.
  • Gandolfini was apparently upset that contract talks have temporarily halted work on the HBO drama.
  • And according to the book “Tinderbox” that provides new details, the late actor compensated him with a gift.

James Gandolfini once gave a $33,000 check to each of his “Sopranos” co-stars, after tense contract negotiations with HBO.

Late actor Steve Sherpa has previously spoken about the late actor’s generous gift, but a new book called “Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers” gives additional context to the incident.

According to “Tinderbox,” Gandolfini originally signed a $5 million per season contract when he was initially cast as Tony Soprano.

However, after HBO executives doubled Gandolfini’s salary after the show’s successful third season, the “Enough Said” star and his cast continued to demand higher compensation, the book explained, until they filed a breach of contract lawsuit in Los Angeles. Then HBO hit back, leading to a stalemate between the two parties.

Mike Lombardo, former head of HBO programmes, recalls in the book: “Jim was a brilliant actor but he was complicated to deal with.”

On “Tinderbox,” Chris Albrecht, another former HBO executive, realizes that an effective way to end the standoff is to halt production on “The Sopranos,” leaving the cast and crew virtually unemployed.

Gandolfini, concerned about the cast and crew, agreed to accept HBO’s rate of $13 million per season.

“We gave him more money, we gave him a million episodes,” Albrecht added in the book.

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano in Season 1 of "Sopranos."

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano in the first season of “The Sopranos.”


Once his contract was completed, the actor wrote each of his fellow “Sopranos” a check for $33,000, the book describes.

In an Insider interview earlier this year, Schirripa said that when he gifted Gandolfini his money, he called each one of them in his trailer one by one.

“He was saying, ‘I just want to thank you for staying by my side.’ [then] “He handed you the envelope,” Sherpa recalls.

Elsewhere in the book, executives recalled their concerns about Gandolfini’s well-being amid the actor’s mental health struggles.

“We were worried about Gandolfini’s survival. Sometimes he’d go on a wine or coke party. We had to shut down production,” former HBO CEO Jeff Beaukes revealed in the book.

“It cost a lot of money and was difficult on the schedules of the other actors,” he continued, adding that he “didn’t put pressure” on Albrecht about Gandolfini’s absence because he “thought Jimmy is embarrassing.”

Albrecht revealed that executives, along with some friends and members of the Gandolfini family, once pitched a troubled actor who ended up being a “disaster.”

Gandolfini later died of a heart attack in 2013.

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