The most recent episode of the “Talking Sopranos” podcast finds hosts and “The Sopranos” actors Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa dropping a bombshell on guest Ricky Gervais. According to the actors behind Christopher Moltisanti and Bobby Baccalieri, HBO paid “Sopranos” lead star James Gandolfini a whopping $3 million not to appear on NBC’s sitcom “The Office.” The series was the U.S. remake of Gervais’ BBC comedy of the same name.
“You know, they talked about having Gandolfini at one point replace him,” Gandolfini told Gervais (via Insider). “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.”
When Carell decided to leave “The Office” at the end of season seven, high profile guest stars such as James Spader joined the series playing characters that served as the replacement for Carell’s Michael Scott. According to Imperioli and Schirripa, it was during this time that HBO made an offer for Gandolfini to appear on the series. “The Sopranos” star speculated that HBO did not want Gandolfini to appear on the sitcom either to maintain the legacy of “The Sopranos” or because Gandolfini was working on the HBO limited series “The Night Of” at the time. Gandolfini shot the pilot to the series with Riz Ahmed before he passed away. John Turturro stepped in after Gandolfini’s death.
“The Office” news is only the latest surprising detail concerning Gandolfini’s post-“Sopranos” career. The late actor’s co-star Edie Falco revealed in April that the two actually shot a secret “Sopranos” sequel short film at the request of the New York Knicks. The basketball organization came up with the idea to make a short film with Falco and Gandolfini’s “Sopranos” character in order to help lure then free agent LeBron James to the Knicks.
“We got those requests all the time back then and [James] Gandolfini, he did nothing,” Falco said. “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.”