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HBO sues 'Sopranos' star Gandolfini

$100M suit aims to force actor to work

James Gandolfini
James Gandolfini

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LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- HBO and the producers of the hit cable TV series "The Sopranos" filed a $100 million countersuit Tuesday against James Gandolfini to force the actor who plays America's most popular mob boss, Tony Soprano, back to work when the series resumes taping later this month.

Gandolfini sued the cable network and Sopranos Productions, Inc. last week in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeking to cancel his contract on the grounds that the company failed to inform him that the series had been ordered for a fifth season in a timely manner.

Most industry observers saw this as a move by Gandolfini, a once obscure actor who achieved stardom with the Tony Soprano role, to get a dramatic increase in salary thanks to a renegotiated contract.

Bert Fields, the attorney for HBO and Soprano Productions, who filed the countersuit in Los Angeles Superior Court, told Reuters that the actor had been properly informed about new filming and that Gandolfini's suit "is frivolous" and part of the actor's bid to raise his salary.

He said the producers exercised their option to pick up Gandolfini's contract for two seasons and estimated their losses at $100 million if he doesn't show up.

Gandolfini on Sunday won the Screen Actors Guild award for best actor in a drama series and in his speech referred to his troubles with HBO. "Enjoy what you can now, because things get pretty weird once it works," he said giving advice to young actors.

He also thanked HBO and said he was sorry if the publicity over his lawsuit made him seem ungrateful. Backstage he said, "I am sure everything will be fine" and when asked by a reporter how much he wanted to be with the show, he hemmed and hawed and finally smiled sheepishly, saying, "You know."

The "Sopranos" cast is due back in the studio to begin shooting new episodes on March 24.

HBO is a unit of AOL Time Warner.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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