Gandolfini's Back; Sopranos a Go


After a bitter salary dispute, actor James Gandolfini is coming back to work,
with production of the fifth season of The Sopranos set to start the
first week of April.

Gandolfini and Home Box Office were involved in a nasty legal battle that had
threatened the very future of the mob hit --a dispute centering on the
pay increase the burly New Jersey-bred actor was seeking.

The fight began when Gandolfini -- who sources said initially wanted a pay
hike to put his salary above $20 million -- filed a breach-of-contract suit
against HBO.

The premium service, reportedly caught totally off-guard by his lawsuit,
immediately slapped Gandolfini with a counterclaim seeking $100 million in
damages. HBO also postponed production of the new season of The Sopranos.
Production had been set to begin March 24.

But Tuesday, after counseling from Sopranos executive producer Brad
Grey, Gandolfini withdrew his lawsuit from court in Los Angeles. He also
supplied HBO with a letter reaffirming his existing contract.

HBO declined to comment in any detail on the resolution Wednesday except for
issuing a prepared statement from chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht.

"We are delighted that the great Jim Gandolfini will be back at work in the
role he has created with such distinction," Albrecht said.

Published reports said that in negotiations prior to Gandolfini filing his
suit, he was seeking $16 million per year and HBO was offering $11 million. HBO
won't comment on what it had offered the actor.

Gandolfini's spokesman, Dan Klores, couldn't be reached for