GUN TO HBO’S HEAD
“Sopranos” star James Gandolfini issued an ultimatum to HBO yesterday in the salary war that is threatening to whack the series: Negotiate with me or cancel the show.
“It’s time for both sides to either say we’re finished or we’re going to deal like mature people,” Dan Klores, the actor’s spokesman, told The Post.
HBO and Gandolfini have not talked to each other since last week, when the actor who plays mob boss Tony Soprano in the hit series filed suit to void his contract.
On Tuesday, HBO ordered that production on the show’s fifth – and perhaps final – season be halted, effectively locking out 300 cast and crew members.
The battle over salary has become increasingly personal and bitter in recent days.
Gandolfini, who had not issued any personal statements about the dispute until yesterday, broke his silence after an unnamed HBO official called him a “greedy pig” in one published report.
“Jim was deeply offended by that remark,” said one of the actor’s pals.
Publicly, other cast members are ducking when asked if they back Gandolfini or whether they think his demand for a $25 million salary this season is out of line.
But privately, some prominent cast members are saying they support him and think HBO’s handling of the salary dispute has been heavy handed.
“Not even George Steinbrenner would stoop to the personal attacks that gutless unnamed HBO sources have launched against James Gandolfini,” said Gandolfini’s spokesman.
“Things are very bleak now,” HBO lawyer Bert Fields said. “Nobody is talking to anybody. HBO has totally exhausted what they can offer. Somebody’s got to pick up the phone, but it’s not going to be HBO.”
A source close to the situation said the outcome of the Gandolfini conflict could reverberate with big HBO stars.
“If you’re Sarah Jessica Parker [“Sex and The City”] or Larry David [“Curb Your Enthusiasm”] or Rachel Griffiths [“Six Feet Under”], you have to be saying right now: √´If they’re treating Gandolfini like this, I can be next in line,’ ” the source said.
Gandolfini’s demand yesterday for what amounts to one of the highest salaries on TV – nearly $2 million per episode – sounds outrageous.
But, say Gandolfini supporters, most network TV series take less than 30 weeks to film an entire season. “The Sopranos” production schedule runs nine months to complete just 13 episodes.
“HBO made $800 million in profits last year – based in large part on a series they say they can’t do without,” says a Gandolfini supporter. “He’s asking for something like six-tenths of one percent of those profits.”
“Play me or trade me right frickin’ now!”
GUN TO HBO’S HEAD