HomeArts & EntertainmentTV & ShowbizHow James Gandolfini used his Sopranos pay rise to surprise his co-stars

How James Gandolfini used his Sopranos pay rise to surprise his co-stars

The Sopranos star James Gandolfini gave his co-stars a big bonus, according to a new book about HBO.

The late actor, who played Tony Soprano across the show’s six seasons, reportedly gave his co-stars $33,000 (£25,000) each after his contract dispute with HBO.

As noted by People magazine, James Andrew Miller’s book –Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers – draws a connection between Gandolfini’s generous decision and his negotiations for higher pay that almost shut down production on the award-winning series.

As per Miller’s book, Gandolfini was originally paid $5m (£3.7m) per season under a six-year contract. This amount was doubled to $10m (£7.4m) after season three in 2001.

Gandolfini, however, reportedly asked for $20m (£15m), citing actors from other hit 2000s shows including Kelsey Grammar from Frasier who was paid over $35m (£26m).

Following intense negotiations, HBO agreed to pay the actor $1m (£742,165) per episode. This translated to $13m (£9.6m) per season.

According to the book, Gandolfini agreed to the number – in spite of it being much less than he had originally wanted – because of his fellow Sopranos cast.

The ongoing contract negotiations threatened to halt production on the series, which would have resulted in many of the show’s cast and crew being unemployed.


“That was the third rail for Gandolfini. He cared too much about everyone else to let them all collapse around him,” Miller wrote in Tinderbox.

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Gandolfini proceeded to give a gift of $33,000 (£25,000) to 16 of his co-stars. This meant the actor shared over $500,000 (£371,000) of his $13m (£9.5m) contract with his castmates.

Sopranos star Steve Schirripa (who played Bobby Baccalieri aka Bobby Bacala) has previously spoken about this generous gift from Gandolfini.

During a 2013 radio appearance, Schirripa said: “As good of an actor as he was, he was a better guy. A generous guy. The guy gave us $33,000 each – 16 people.

“In season 4 he called every one of the regular cast members and gave us a cheque. He said, ‘Thanks for sticking by me.’ It’s like buying 16 people a car.”

Gandolfini died in June 2013 aged 51 from cardiac arrest.

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