Sopranos Dispute Threatens Show


Actor James Gandolfini and Home Box Office went to the mattresses last week in a very nasty public battle over the actor's salary — a legal war that has put filming of The Sopranos
fifth season on ice.

HBO last week "indefinitely" postponed production of the hit mob show, which was set to start filming on March 24. The very future of the series about a New Jersey Mafioso and his two "families" looks to be in jeopardy as Gandolfini, who plays Tony Soprano, and the premium network square off in court.

Jockeying for a pay hike, Gandolfini roughly two weeks ago filed suit in Los Angeles against HBO, charging breach of contract. He claimed the network breached his contract by not giving him timely notice that it needed him for a fifth season.

Ratcheting up the conflict, last week HBO filed a breach-of-contract countersuit against Gandolfini, seeking $100 million in damages. The suit also asks the court to enjoin Gandolfini "from rendering acting services for himself or anyone other than cross-complainant" pending trial.

HBO's countersuit charges that each year, Gandolfini has demanded pay increases, and "although it had no obligation to do so," the programmer granted those increases.

Since the dispute between Emmy-winning Gandolfini and HBO broke out, there have been conflicting reports about what the actor was seeking and what HBO had offered.

Initially, reports said Gandolfini wanted $1 million per episode, up from his current $400,000, to do 13 season installments of the fifth season of The Sopranos.
HBO reportedly offered him an increase to $800,000 per.

But as last week wore on, press reports said Gandolfini was also seeking a piece of the so-called "back end" of The Sopranos:
a cut of DVD sales, international rights and syndication. One account said HBO offered Gandolfini $650,000 per show, and $2 million in back-end money. That would add up to just over $10 million for the show's fifth season, an offer Gandolfini managed to refuse.

That report said he wanted $25 million in salary and back-end revenue.

The squabble has become so rancorous that in one published report, an unnamed HBO official referred to Gandolfini as "a greedy pig."

Gandolfini's spokesman, Dan Klores, declined to comment. HBO referred questions regarding the dispute to its attorney, Bert Fields, who couldn't be reached for comment.