People: Mar. 24, 2003

STOP! OR MY BEARD WILL SHOOT

JAMES GANDOLFINI has made HBO an offer it apparently can refuse. Gandolfini wants his Sopranos salary bumped up from its current rate--a Dickensian $400,000 an episode--to more than $1 million, and to tighten the screws, he sued HBO over an alleged contract violation. Not only would HBO's brass not budge, but they countersued Gandolfini for $100 million and delayed the March 24 start of production of the show's fifth season. HBO lawyer Bert Fields dismissed the actor's attempt to hold a gun to the network's head: "It's really a water pistol--and it doesn't even have...

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