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James Gandolfini sued HBO, which delayed The Sopranos season 5

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There is little doubt that Tony Soprano was at the heart of what made The Sopranos arguably the greatest show of all time. And what made Tony Soprano so iconic was undoubtedly the actor who brought him to life – James Gandolfini. However, there was a time when HBO was not compensating Gandolfini at par with his contribution. And that forced him to sue HBO, which eventually delayed the production of The Sopranos season 5!

Related: HBO offered James Gandolfini millions to turn down The Office role to replace Steve Carell

How The Sopranos brought unprecedented success to HBO

James Gandolfini Sued HBO, Which Delayed The Sopranos Season 5
HBO

HBO had always been overshadowed by traditional TV networks back in the 90s. However, with The Sopranos, all of that changed for the good as far as HBO was concerned. The very first season of The Sopranos was a major breakthrough for the network, bringing viewership to unprecedented numbers. Moreover, James Gandolfini landed the Emmy Award for best actor as well for his performance in The Sopranos season 1. As a result, he renegotiated his contract with HBO to double his pay right before season 2.

Moving to season 5, David Chase renegotiated a deal with HBO which valued almost $20 million for the show for a fifth season. Now, Gandolfini’s contract had a clause that required him to be made aware of any such deal within 10 days. However, that did not happen. And so he launched a lawsuit against HBO, with the aim to renegotiate better pay for the actor either through a new contract or through settlement.

Related: The Sopranos: A revolution that changed TV forever

The lawsuit that James Gandolfini filed against HBO for greater pay

James Gandolfini Sued HBO, Which Delayed The Sopranos Season 5
HBO

Before this lawsuit, James Gandolfini was earning around $400,000. Although this is already quite an impressive amount, it paled when juxtaposed to other stars from shows under HBO. For example, Frasier star Kelsey Grammar earned almost $1.6 million per episode, with supporting actors earning as much as Gandolfini did for The Sopranos. And The Sopranos was not just bigger in stature, but also had a smaller run-time per season.

Not only that, but The Sopranos was by far HBO’s biggest money-maker. Even 20 years later, they tried to cash in on the reinvigorated interest in the series by releasing the prequel movie, The Many Saints of Newark. Despite the hype, our review suggested that the movie was just not at par with the original series. And so, the financial standoff between HBO and James Gandolfini began.

As a result of the lawsuit, season 5 of The Sopranos was significantly delayed. There was a 15-month long gap between the finale of season 4 and the premiere of season 5 because of the lawsuit. However, this was not a cause of worry for HBO, as there was a sixteen-month gap before season 4 and a twenty-one-month gap before season 6. However, this was worrisome for James Gandolfini, as this delay in production would impact the pay of the crew members and supporting cast. And so, he gave each crew member per co-star around $33,000 from his own bonus that he received from HBO.

Related: HBO Was Afraid People Would Hate Tony Soprano

Although HBO had to pay Gandolfini handsomely, they emerged as winners as well

In the end, Gandolfini won but so did HBO. It put HBO right above Network television and established its name in top-tier television production. Moreover, the money HBO was willing to pay was comparable to big-budget movies. This allowed them to produce a series of other successes. This includes Game of Thrones, Succession, Chernobyl, Westworld, The Wire, Curb Your Enthusiasm, True Detective, and many others. Therefore, in the end, everyone turned out to be a winner. And you can safely mark The Sopranos season 5 as the moment that HBO and James Gandolfini emerged as superstars in the world of Television.

Related: Sopranos creator David Chase finally & officially confirms Tony fate in finale

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