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HBO Accused of Paying James Gandolfini $3 Million to Turn Down ‘The Office’ Role

The Sopranos star Michael Imperioli has alleged that HBO paid actor James Gandolfini $3 million to turn down The Office role.

“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 on the Talking Sopranos podcast which he co-hosts with former co-star Steve Schirripa, per ET Canada. “That’s a fact.”

Complex added:

The Office made the switch from Michael Scott (Carell) to Robert California (Spader) in Season 8, which originally aired in 2011, four years after the conclusion of The Sopranos.

Prior to Spader’s arrival, NBC had narrowed their search to fill the void left behind by Carell to him and Gandolfini. This development was covered in the Andy Greene-written book, The OfficeThe Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History.

Greene mentions that The Office producers Paul Feig and B.J. Novak were sold on Gandolfini, and even though he expressed doubt about being the right fit, he eventually took the role before getting cold feet. Gandolfini ultimately backed out and Spader swooped in.

Schirripa indicates that when The Office was knocking on his door, Gandolfini already had a deal with HBO where he was working on the Emmy-winning miniseries, The Night Of, which was released three years after his death. Gandolfini was set to star as John Stone, the lawyer who represents the imprisoned Naz Khan, played by Riz Ahmed. John Turturro ended up taking the part after Robert De Niro backed out due to scheduling reasons.

“So they paid him [Gandolfini] that to keep the legacy of The Sopranos pure?,” Ricky Gervais, star and co-creator of the original UK version of The Office, wondered. “Well, that’s a good decision.”

Neither HBO nor Gandolfini had addressed this as at press time.

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