HBO ‘Paid James Gandolfini Millions’ to Not Replace Steve Carell in ‘The Office’
That’s the story according to Sopranos alum Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa, who revealed on the latest episode of their Talking Sopranos podcast that HBO paid the Tony Soprano actor millions not to take over from Steve Carell following his exit from The Office.
After Life‘s Ricky Gervais, who created and starred in the original U.K. series of The Office, was a guest on the podcast and praised Carell for his performance as the awkward boss of a Scranton paper company. “[Carell] put his life on hold for seven years,” Gervais commented before Imperioli interrupted to reveal that Gandolfini was once in line to replace The Morning Show actor in the hit sitcom.
Schirripa said that Gandolfini was interested in the role “because he hadn’t worked and it was a number of years removed from when [The Sopranos] ended.” But, ultimately, it didn’t end up happening, and Schirripa explained why: “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. That’s a fact.”
Gervais said it was a “good decision” and also jokingly asked if HBO had paid the late actor in order “to keep the legacy of The Sopranos pure.” While Schirripa said that possibly played a part in it, the main reason was that multi-time Emmy winner had a deal with HBO and was already in development on The Night Of. Gandolfini passed away in 2013.
In Andy Greene’s The Office (The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History) published last year, many of the sitcom’s writers and producers spoke of how close Gandolfini came to being the new Dunder Mifflin boss.
“I remember him being really, really complimentary, but he wasn’t super familiar with the show,” Daniel Chun said. “He had watched a few episodes and was really unsure about comedy. He was like, ‘I don’t one hundred percent know how to play this.'”
Ultimately, Gandolfini turned it down and the role went to James Spader, though Office writer Brent Forrester said “it was really, really close to [Gandolfini] being the boss.”