James Gandolfini was almost tapped to replace Steve Carell in "The Office" following his departure in 2011, but HBO reportedly offered to pay him $3 million to turn down the role, according to "Sopranos" stars Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa.
The revelation came during an episode of the two actors' "Talking Sopranos" podcast, which featured the original U.K. "Office" star Ricky Gervais as its guest.
"You know, they talked about having Gandolfini at one point replace him — did you know that?" Imperioli asked.
"I think before James Spader and after Carell, they offered Jim [Gandolfini], I want to say, $4 million to play him for the season — and HBO paid him $3 million not to do it," Schirripa replied, adding, "That’s a fact."
"The Sopranos" had ended four years prior when the offer came in. Gandolfini and Spader were both being considered for the role.
"Jim was going do it because he hadn’t worked, and it was a number of years removed from when the show ended," Schirripa explained.
"So they paid him that to keep the legacy of The Sopranos pure?" Gervais asked.
"I guess that, and also he had a deal with them," Schirripa said, referring to HBO's miniseries "The Night Of," which Gandolfini was set to star in and executive produce. John Turturro took over the role after Gandolfini died in Rome from a heart attack at age 51 in 2013.
News that Gandolfini was being considered to replace Carell in "The Office" was first revealed by Rolling Stone's writer Andy Greene’s book, "The Office (The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History)."
"I remember him being really, really complimentary, but he wasn’t super familiar with the show," writer-producer Daniel Chun recalled. "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,'" according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Writer-producer Brent Forrester maintained that "it was really, really close to [Gandolfini] being the boss," but in the end, he turned it down.
"I don’t think that we stopped talking to him," producer Teri Weinberg added. "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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