The stars of The Sopranos are single-handedly proving that crime really does pay. So long as you hold out long enough.
After months of increasingly tense contract negotiations and threats of walking away, Steven Van Zandt (Silvio Dante) and Tony Sirico (Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri) have reached a deal with HBO to return for the final eight episodes of the series.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the duo--who were the last two show stars holding out for bigger deals--made the agreement with the cable net on Friday.
The trade mag reports that the duo will take home nearly double their salary from last season, which fell around $85,000 each per episode. The figure is apparently close enough for the pair of actors who were previously holding out on signing new contracts until HBO met their asking price of $200,000 apiece for each of the remaining episodes.
The sum was reached after considerable, and often hostile, negotiations. HBO initially refused to budge from their offer of a 10 percent pay raise for Sirico and Van Zandt, which would top out their per-episode take-home pay at $90,000 apiece.
The back-and-forth bargaining between the goodfellas and the cable net continued on while the remainder of the Emmy-winning hit's cast inked more lucrative deals.
James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano), Edie Falco (Carmela), Michael Imperioli (Christopher) and Vincent Curatola (John "Johnny Sack" Sacramoni) all managed to increase their paydays early on, with series don Gandolfini banking a cool $1 million per episode for his troubles.
Last week, more of the remaining cast holdouts ensured they'd be cashing much larger checks, with Lorraine Bracco (Dr. Melfi) earning between $220,000-$230,000 per episode; Aida Turturro (Janice) pocketing between $130,000-$140,000; and Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow) and Robert Iler (Tony Jr.) nabbing between $110,000-$120,000.
But while the rest of the Sopranos cast was landing new deals with HBO, Van Zandt and Sirico couldn't seem to make any headway--or compromises.
Two weeks ago, amid a particularly unreceptive round of negotiations, Gandolfini stepped in to mediate if not a deal then at least a little civility between his onscreen goombahs and the cable net.
The small-screen godfather reportedly intervened to host a sit-down to attempt to broker new deals for the actors before the quickly approaching final season kicked off production. Alas, while Gandolfini did manage to get Van Zandt and Sirico on the phone, no headway between the duo's agents and HBO had been made.
The rift between cast and network first began last summer, when HBO announced it would split the series' final season into two segments, thus resulting in the actors renegotiating their contracts to cover two separate, albeit truncated, seasons.
The payday upgrade, which finally came on Friday, is seemingly not a moment too soon.
Production for the final eight-episode run of The Sopranos begins place Thursday, with all the actors convening for first table read. The final season begins airing in January 2007.