James Gandolfini Almost Starred in The Office But He Was Paid $3M Not to Do It

James Gandolfini Almost Starred in The Office But He Was Paid $3M Not to Do It
Image credit: Paramount Vantage/NBC

HBO really didn't want to say goodbye to James Gandolfini.

Many of us will always remember James Gandolfini as the iconic actor who brought Tony Soprano to life. You might be surprised, but he was once on the brink of stepping into a very different kind of leadership role.

Gandolfini was considered to replace Steve Carell’s character, Michael Scott, on the beloved sitcom The Office. But in a move that stunned many, Gandolfini turned down the role — a decision that reportedly involved a $3 million payment from HBO.

After Steve Carell announced his departure from The Office in 2011, the search was on for a new boss of Dunder Mifflin. Among the candidates considered was James Gandolfini.

According to Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa, co-stars of The Sopranos and hosts of the Talking Sopranos podcast, Gandolfini was offered a substantial sum to take on the role — around $4 million for one season.

James Gandolfini Almost Starred in The Office But He Was Paid $3M Not to Do It - image 1

But the interesting part is that HBO, the network that aired The Sopranos, reportedly paid Gandolfini $3 million to pass on the opportunity to join The Office cast.

It appears that HBO was keen on preserving the legacy of Tony Soprano, one of the most iconic characters in television history. Gandolfini was closely associated with this character, and HBO likely wanted to keep it that way.

Gandolfini, who hadn't been working much since The Sopranos ended, was seriously considering the offer. Ricky Gervais, the creator of the original UK version of The Office, speculated during the podcast whether the payment was made to keep The Sopranos' legacy pure.

Schirripa suggested that Gandolfini’s ongoing relationship with HBO and his involvement in developing other projects with the network, such as The Night Of, were also key factors.

Despite passing on The Office, Gandolfini’s career remained vibrant. He was nominated for a Tony Award for his role in Broadway’s God of Carnage, lent his voice to the film Where the Wild Things Are, and produced several documentaries and features.

It's sad to say that Gandolfini passed away in 2013 when he was 51. However, keeping his legacy alive, his son Michael Gandolfini portrayed a young Tony Soprano in the 2021 Sopranos prequel movie, The Many Saints of Newark.

Source: Talking Sopranos on YouTube