Former HBO CEO Jeff Bewkes told James Andrew Miller in his new book, Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers, that some network executives were worried about James Gandolfini‘s well-being while filming The Sopranos, per Insider.
“We were concerned about Gandolfini staying alive. Occasionally he would go on a bender or a coke binge. We had to stop production,” Bewkes said, adding that such instances resulted in a financial hit for the network. Sopranos producer Terence Winter discussed the time Gandolfini failed to show for a night shoot at Westchester County Airport, which involved a helicopter, in a 2013 GQ profile about the late actor.
“Nobody was particularly sad to go home at nine thirty on a Friday night,” Winter said. “You know, ’It’s just money.’ I mean, it was a ton of money—we shut down a fucking airport.” While the cast wasn’t upset over Gandolfini’s absence in this particular case, Bewkes claims his disappearing acts were “hard on the other actors’ schedules.”
According to GQ, cast and crew soon realized that it became customary for Gandolfini to feel so miserable about his behavior that he would try to spoil everyone with extravagant gifts the very next day. Bewkes also appeared to be aware of how the actor ran hot and cold because he admittedly “didn’t pressure” former HBO exec Chris Albrecht about Gandolfini missing work because he “thought Jimmy was embarrassed.”
Albrecht told Miller that he doesn’t recall “being worried he was going to die,” but said there was more of a growing concern over his “lack of respect for the other actors.” Albrecht would best describe the network’s relationship with Gandolfini as a “love-hate thing,” while Bewkes claims the late actor would treat him “like the dad or the boss.”
Albrecht reveals an intervention was held for Gandolfini in his apartment in wake of his substance abuse issues. “We had an intervention with him in my apartment in New York. The intervention wasn’t my idea,” he recalled. “I think his family’s idea because his sister was there. It was definitely a crisis situation.” The ex-HBO exec claimed the gesture was “a disaster,” and ended with Gandolfini daring Albrecht to fire him before walking out.
Despite their alleged issues throughout production on Sopranos, co-star Michael Imperioli claims the network paid him $3 million to turn down a $4 million offer to assume the role as boss of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company on The Office, which was previously occupied by Steve Carell.