Last year, a new book revealed that James Gandolfini was the top candidate to replace Steve Carell as the new Dunder Mifflin boss on The Office, but he ultimately passed on the role, which then went to James Spader. While the story at the time was that Gandolfini had cold feet about headlining the biggest comedy on TV, a new episode of the Talking Sopranos podcast now claims that HBO stepped in during the negotiations and paid Gandolfini not to accept the offer.
While talking to guest Ricky Gervais, who created the original UK version of The Office, hosts and former The Sopranos co-stars Michael Imperioli and Bobby Schirripa revealed the huge sum that HBO ponied up to keep Gandolfini away from NBC even though it had been several years since The Sopranos ended. Via The Hollywood Reporter:
Gervais wasn’t familiar with the tale, which Schirripa then relayed while revealing why he says it ultimately didn’t happen. “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. That’s a fact.”
Gervais then joked that HBO paid off Gandolfini “to keep the legacy of The Sopranos pure,” which Schirripa didn’t dispute, but he also said Gandolfini had a development deal at the time for The Night Of.
The tale of Gandolfini almost replacing Carell was first revealed in the 2020 book The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s by author Andy Greene. According to the book, everyone on the creative team was “really excited” about bringing in Gandolfini who they felt could anchor the show after Carell left. At one point, Gandolfini even said yes, but “but then hesitated before things became official.” Now, we apparently know why.
(Via Talking Sopranos)