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HBO pays off mob boss

Gandolfini inks for more coin, involvement in outside projects

NEW YORK — Proving that TV crime pays, Emmy-winning “Sopranos” star James Gandolfini has just signed a renegotiated contract that will pay him about $10 million for the next two seasons of the HBO drama. That sum is said to include future obligations as producer and actor in TV series and movies for “Sopranos” partners HBO and Brad Grey Television.

New deal was signed last week after extended negotiations and just as Gandolfini was accepting the only Emmy the show won out of 18 nominations. While it boosts Gandolfini’s salary considerably, it is hardly profligate, considering the salaries earned by stars of network hit series like “ER.” After Gandolfini’s long career as a character actor in such films as “Get Shorty,” his breakout role as stressed mob boss Tony Soprano has established him as a legitimate star.

Deal is a shrewd one for Grey and HBO because Gandolfini, who just completed starring with Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt in “The Mexican,” now earns $5 million a feature and could earn much more than his television salary if he concentrated on films.

Campaign to keep Gandolfini happy and running the Soprano crime family for as many as three more seasons follows HBO and Grey’s renegotiation earlier this year to keep creator David Chase running the show for two more seasons for an eight-figure sum (Daily Variety, March 15). Chase’s deal includes a greenlight on his scripted feature “If I Fell.”

Gandolfini’s redrawn contract effectively creates a template for keeping him in the starring role of the drama beyond the next two seasons and into a third, when Chase’s deal allows him to hand over the drama to another showrunner while retaining involvement from a distance.

It was unclear exactly how many ancillary obligations are factored into the $10 million deal as all parties involved are taking an omerta-like vow of silence. Participants in the raise negotiations conducted the talks under a signed strict agreement of confidentiality. Neither HBO, Grey nor the actor’s agents at Writers & Artists would comment on the new pact. Grey was the only one to remotely address the issue.

“It would be inappropriate to discuss Jim’s contractual commitment and compensation,” said Grey, who exec produces the series with Chase. “I am far more interested in discussing his extraordinary talent and invaluable contribution to ‘The Sopranos.’ ” Gandolfini is repped by W&A and managed by Nancy Sanders and Mark Armstrong.

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