Gandolfini Withdraws Suit Over 'Sopranos' -Sources
Mon Mar 17, 8:49 PM ET
By Gina Keating
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor James Gandolfini has moved to dismiss his lawsuit against HBO so that he can hold talks with the cable network over his salary demands for a fifth season of the mob drama, "The Sopranos," sources close to the negotiations said on Monday.
HBO officials said they, too, were ready to step back from the $100 million countersuit the network filed against Gandolfini earlier this month after he refused to return for another turn as America's favorite mob boss unless his salary was hiked to $16 million for the 13-episode season.
"The only thing I can say ... is that temperatures are taken down and there is an optimism in the air," Gandolfini's spokesman Dan Klores said early on Monday.
Bert Fields, an attorney for HBO, said the cable network was awaiting formal notice from a Los Angeles court that Gandolfini had withdrawn his lawsuit.
"I have not gotten formal notice yet," Fields told Reuters. "My understanding was that Mr. Gandolfini was going to dismiss the suit ... today."
Sources close to the negotiations said Gandolfini also would be required to sign a sworn statement affirming the terms of his original contract before new salary negotiations could resume.
By day's end, court officials could not confirm that the paperwork had been filed but said it may have been stuck in a clerical office.
Brad Grey, one of the show's producers, helped break the deadlock between the 41-year-old actor and HBO officials during weekend talks at Grey's Los Angeles home, Fields said.
If Gandolfini withdraws his suit "it certainly is going to help clear the air and make quite a different feeling on the part of HBO," Fields said. He declined to elaborate on whether that meant that the cable company would consider Gandolfini's demand for more money.
Last week, HBO called off filming, set to begin next Monday for cable TV's most popular drama, citing Gandolfini's refusal to return to work unless his salary was renegotiated upward from the $400,000 per episode he now receives.
The actor reportedly wants the cable company to more than double his salary to $16 million per season, to bring his earnings more in line with what stars on top-rated broadcast network shows earn.
Gandolfini filed suit against HBO on March 6, seeking to be released from his contract and claiming producers had not informed him in a timely manner that his acting services would be required for a fifth season of the award-winning show.
HBO, which described the actor's lawsuit as a negotiating ploy, countersued the actor a few days later for breach of contract and contended he would be liable for losses of $100 million if he failed to show up for work on March 24.
HBO is owned by AOL Time Warner Inc.