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Imperioli and Schirripa spoke about the reported deal during the latest episode of their Talking Sopranos podcast, which featured guest Ricky Gervais. The star of the original U.K. Office series offered praise and appreciation for Carell, who he said “put his life on hold for seven years,” when Imperioli interjected.
“You know, they talked about having Gandolfini at one point replace him [Steve Carell], did you know that?” he said.
Gervais wasn’t familiar with the tale, which Schirripa then relayed while revealing why he says it ultimately didn’t happen. “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 called it a “good decision” before Schirripa continued, explaining Gandolfini’s interest in taking on the role was “because he hadn’t worked and it was a number of years removed from when the show ended.”
While Gervais jokingly asked about whether HBO had paid Gandolfini, who died in 2013, “to keep the legacy of The Sopranos pure,” Schirripa pointed to a deal the actor still had with the studio.
“I guess that and also he had a deal with them. He was doing The Night Of, developing that,” Schirripa concluded.
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to HBO for comment.
Gandolfini’s near turn on the popular mockumentary sitcom was revealed back in 2020 in Rolling Stone writer Andy Greene’s The Office (The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History). In it, writers and producers including Brent Forrester, Daniel Chun and Teri Weinberg were among those who spoke about Gandolfini’s potential casting following Carell’s departure from the show after season seven.
Forrester shared that the Sopranos star “was really the one that we were excited about.” Chun, Paul Feig and B.J. Novak had met with the actor to talk about the role.
“I remember him being really, really complimentary, but he wasn’t super familiar with the show,” 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.'”
Chun went on to say that while he didn’t think Gandolfini was intimidated, he did think he had hesitations about “the idea of helming what was one of the biggest comedies on TV.”
The team was in the early development stages with the potential character, and Forrester recalled the actor saying yes — with it coming down to the Sopranos star and James Spader. But ultimately, Gandolfini turned it down, though Forrester said “it was really, really close to [Gandolfini] being the boss.”
“I don’t think that we stopped talking to him,” Weinberg said. “I mean, that conversation went on for some time but he had other shows that he was developing for himself and that was just part of what his focus was, so I don’t think he was necessarily ready to just jump into this role.”
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