Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

How A Sopranos Dispute Led James Gandolfini To Give Each Of His Co-Stars $33K

"The Sopranos" is one of the most significant and influential shows in HBO's entire catalog (via LIFE). The mafia-themed series followed the exploits and inner turmoil of the New Jersey mob across six seasons on the network and helped to change the face of modern television forever. As main characters like Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) and Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) of "The Shield" showed, audiences were more than willing to follow a complex and deeply flawed lead character.

Though Gandolfini had been a successful character actor for years before landing the lead on "The Sopranos," his role still remains his most iconic and memorable even with its final run of episodes wrapping up over 15 years ago. Though Gandolfini passed away in 2013 at the age of 51 (via History), his cast members from the series still recall his generosity with fond remembrance. In fact, Steve Schirripa, who played Bobby Baccala for several seasons of "The Sopranos," broke down just how much of a stand-up guy Gandolfini was.

Gandolfini paid out the cast while under a contract dispute

The entire cast of "The Sopranos" sat down with Vanity Fair back in 2012 for a special oral history of the acclaimed series, and while there were plenty of interesting anecdotes to parse out, Steve Schirripa's remembrance of James Gandolfini's touching act of generosity definitely stands out.

The story takes place after the fourth season, when a pay dispute almost shut down "The Sopranos." Gandolfini's salary had already been doubled from $5 million to $10 million following the success of the third season, but the actor began holding out for more. Gandolfini and HBO eventually agreed on the number of $13 million (via Insider).

"After Season 4, Jim called all the regulars into his trailer and gave us $33,333 each, every single one of us," Schirripa recalled. "Now, there were a lot of big actors — Kelsey Grammer, Ray Romano — and they're all nice guys, I'm sure, but nobody gave their cast members that kind of money," Schirripa went on. "That's like buying everybody an S.U.V. He said, 'Thanks for sticking by me.'"

Since "The Sopranos" boasted easily one of the biggest ensembles on television at the time, that was certainly no small feat. It just goes to show how strongly Gandolfini believed in his principles that he was willing to hand out that much money to his fellow cast members just to thank them for holding out with him and the others who were disputing their contracts at the time. Still, not everyone supported the cast so fervently in their financial battle with HBO.

Edie Falco thought they should be happy with what they had

Edie Falco portrayed Tony's long-suffering wife, Carmela Soprano, across all six seasons of "The Sopranos," and Falco would go on to hit it big after the series wrapped up, just like Gandolfini did. However, having come from a working-class background, Falco had a decidedly different take on the dispute, as she told Vanity Fair during the same set of interviews.

"There was a period of mutiny within the cast members, who thought we should be getting more money," Falco explained. "And this was a very complicated issue because I know HBO was making a lot of money." Still, Falco hadn't forgotten how lucky they were to be on "The Sopranos" in the first place.

"And I thought, 'Are you f***ing kidding me?' I worked at restaurants for 20 years, and this thing comes along, and I'm going to complain about not getting enough money?" the actor recalled. Falco's honesty and pragmatism are refreshing here, as some folks don't even make $33,000 in a year. Still, Gandolfini ought to be commended for stepping up in the way that he did during the dispute.