5:47pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
James Gandolfini's Death Leaves HBO's 'Criminal Justice' in Limbo
James Gandolfini's sudden death Wednesday comes as The Sopranos actor was prepping his return to HBO.
Two months after the premium cable network that helped launch the Emmy-winning actor's career initially passed on the project, HBO revived drama Criminal Justice as a limited series with an order for seven hourlong episodes.
The drama is an adaptation of Peter Moffat's 2008 BBC crime entry and had been in development at HBO for more than a year, earning a pilot order in September when Gandolfini agreed to star.
The future of the project, which would have seen Gandolfini star as Jack Stone, a downtrodden jailhouse attorney who frequents police stations for clients, is now in limbo. HBO filmed a pilot on the project and passed before changing course and greenlighting the drama as a miniseries. A new production date had yet to be determined for the retooled effort. A representative for HBO noted it was too soon to know whether the series would move forward or not.
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Criminal Justice was just one of a number of projects Gandolfini had in the works at the time of his death Wednesday at the age of 51.
Additionally, Gandolfini signed on in early June to executive produce an adaptation of Canadian comedy Taxi-22 at CBS. The project initially was set up at HBO, where Gandolfini was poised to exec produce through his production company Attaboy Productions' overall deal with the cabler. He briefly was attached to star. CBS did not respond to a request for comment on whether Gandolfini's death would impact the development of the project.
In addition, Gandolfini -- who had a long history with HBO, producing Hemingway & Gellhorn and starring in Cinema Verite -- was developing drama Big Dead Place, based on Nicholas Johnson's memoir about his work in the U.S. Antarctic Program.
HBO Films also was looking to continue its relationship with Gandolfini with Eating With the Enemy: How I Waged Peace With North Korea From My BBQ Shack in Hackensack, based on Robert Egan and Kurt Pitzer's book of the same name as a starring vehicle. He would have portrayed a Hackensack restaurant owner who forged a relationship with the North Korean Mission in Upper Manhattan and went on to play an important role as a liaison in U.S. and North Korean relations.
"We're all in shock and feeling immeasurable sadness at the loss of a beloved member of our family," HBO said in a statement Wednesday. "He was special man, a great talent, but more importantly a gentle and loving person who treated everyone, no matter their title or position, with equal respect. He touched so many of us over the years with his humor, his warmth and his humility. Our hearts go out to his wife and children during this terrible time. He will be deeply missed by all of us."