Gandolfini row puts Sopranos' 5th season in jeopardy

NEW YORK: Telly buffs watching the trials and tribulations of The Sorpano mob family may have to look elsewhere for satisfaction soon. 

James Gandolfini, who won a Screen Actors Guild Award this morning for playing mob boss Tony Soprano on The Sopranos has filed a lawsuit against HBO seeking a release from his contract.

In India, the show airs on Zee English every Tuesday at 10:30 pm. Gandolfini's grouse against the HBO network is related to salary. He believes that his salary is not quite on par with what his fellow actors receive. A Reuters report however indicates that Gandolfini is however hopeful of doing an encore if a favourable deal can be struck.

In his California suit, he accused HBO of violating a clause in his contract by not notifying him of a $20 million deal struck with David Chase, the brain behind the show.

Last year, The Sopranos broke records for a cable show by drawing in an audience of 13.4 million for its premiere.

After the first season, the star got around $400,000 an episode. In general terms this is not bad but it falls short of the $1 million the cast of the sitcom Friends receive. Shooting for the next season of The Sopranos was supposed to commence from next month. HBO has accused the star of indulging in arm twisting in a bid to extract more money.

Readers are no doubt aware that India is one of just two countries where HBO derives revenues from ads. In other places it relies solely on the subscription route. So it is difficult to arrive at a figure as to how much The Sopranos is worth.

Gandolfini's fellow partners in crime on the show including Michael Imperioli and Tony Sirico recently renegotiated their contracts in recent months.

The Sopranos was the start of a successful run for HBO. In recent times the channel also had success with the black comedy Six Feet Under..

At this mornings SAG awards which aired on Zee English at 8:30 am Gandolfini was gracious in his acceptance speech. He thanked HBO for all the support received over the years. He encouraged struggling actors to keep working and auditioning. After all he reasoned it just takes one break to make it big. He however made an indirect reference to the suit by delivering this parting shot, "Enjoy what you can now, because things get pretty weird once it works."

Telly buffs can catch a repeat of the SAG Awards this evening at 8:30 pm on the channel.

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