Last week, a reconciliation between HBO and ''Sopranos'' star James Gandolfini seemed even less likely than Tony and Carmela renewing their wedding vows. But over the weekend, the dueling litigants met and may have hammered out a settlement that will result in each side dropping its lawsuit against the other and the production of the fifth season of the show beginning as scheduled next Monday.
According to the New York Times, which has been tracking the negotiations for weeks, Gandolfini initially sought a raise from $5 million to $20 million a year, which would put him near the ballpark of some of network TV's best paid actors, including, his representatives said, ''NYPD Blue'''s Dennis Franz, ''ER'''s Noah Wyle, and ''every single actor on 'Frasier' except the dog.'' Gandolfini later downsized his demand to $16 million, then $11 million, the Times reports, before filing his breach-of-contract suit against HBO on March 6. HBO filed a countersuit on March 11, saying Gandolfini's departure from the show would mean the end of the series and a $100 million in damages. On March 13, however, ''Sopranos'' executive producer Brad Grey, who's also a talent manager and is used to dealing with actors, stepped in to mediate, and talks went on throughout the weekend.
According to the New York Daily News, HBO will raise Gandolfini's salary from $400,000 per episode to $650,000, plus a cut of the residuals from DVDs and possible syndication of reruns. The residuals could bring his take-home pay up to the $11 million per year he was asking for before he filed suit, the New York Post reports.