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TV CRITIC'S CORNER

Tony Soprano’s legacy and a great what-if

James Gandolfini, shown in 1999, as Tony Soprano in HBO's "The Sopranos."
James Gandolfini, shown in 1999, as Tony Soprano in HBO's "The Sopranos."Anthony Neste/HBO via AP

Many of you already know that Tony Soprano will be back, but he’ll be a young man this time, and he’ll be played by a different actor — in fact the late James Gandolfini’s son, Michael Gandolfini.

“The Many Saints of Newark” is a movie prequel to “The Sopranos,” and it will arrive in theaters on Oct. 1 (with a one-month simultaneous release on HBO Max). The large cast also includes Vera Farmiga as Livia Soprano, Billy Magnussen as Paulie Walnuts, John Magaro as Silvio Dante, and Corey Stoll as Junior Soprano.

I’m thinking about the movie because I just read a great little story about James Gandolfini, who died at age 51 in 2013. In a recent episode of the podcast “Talking Sopranos,” which is cohosted by “Sopranos” stars Michael Imperioli (Christopher) and Steve Schirripa (Bobby), the topic of “The Office” came up in conversation with guest Ricky Gervais, who created and starred in the British version of the series.

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The hosts explain to Gervais that after Steve Carell left the series, NBC offered the lead spot to Gandolfini. The actor was going to do it, because he hadn’t worked for a while, but HBO didn’t want him to take the job. According to the pair, NBC offered Gandolfini $4 million for one season, so HBO paid him $3 million not to do it.

“They paid him that to keep the legacy of ‘The Sopranos’ pure?” Gervais asks, which may have been part of the reason. At the time, Gandolfini also had a deal with HBO for “The Night Of.”


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.