Steve Van Zandt, who played the character of Sil in the legendary HBO series The Sopranos, tweeted today about an amazing gesture from the late James Gandolfini portrayed the show's main character Tony Soprano.
Van Zandt was asked on Twitter "Hey @StevieVanZandt! Is it true James Gandolfini gave each actor at The Sopranos $33,333 of his own money to settle a salary dispute the cast had with @HBO? Thank you brother!."
Van Zandt replied, "It wasn’t to settle a salary dispute. He had gotten a big raise and just divided it amongst the cast. He was one of a kind."
It wasn’t to settle a salary dispute. He had gotten a big raise and just divided it amongst the cast. He was one of a kind. https://t.co/t7KGELqlj7
— 🕉Stevie Van Zandt☮️ (@StevieVanZandt) June 18, 2022
The story behind the generous gift from Gandolfini began with a pay dispute between the actors of the The Sopranos and HBO, before the filming of the fifth season was to begin.
With the incredible popularity and reach of The Sopranos, HBO were benefitting hugely and the actors felt that they deserved a pay rise.
Gandolfini wanted $1 million per episode, which may seem extortionate at first glance, but was less than Kelsey Grammar was making as the star of Frasier, and less than Ray Romano was making for Everybody Loves Raymond.
HBO hit back with a counter offer of $800,000, but Gandolfini was not happy and took them to court with a lawsuit.
Eventually he accepted HBO's offer, and following this pay rise he called the main cast into his trailer and gave them each $33,333.
The gesture not only showed the generosity of the universally beloved Gandolfini, but proved that he had taken HBO to court not just for his own benefit but to aid his fellow cast members in getting their own pay rises.
Gandolfini passed away in June 2013, before his son Michael took over the role of Tony Soprano in the 2021 film The Many Saints of Newark.