And you thought Tony Soprano had troubles.

Locked in a nasty divorce battle, and in damage-control mode after a lurid tabloid story, James Gandolfini, a two-time Emmy winner for channeling Mob boss Tony Soprano's conflicted soul on HBO's The Sopranos, has gone public with his battles with drugs and alcohol.

A statement from the star's spokesman terms Gandolfini's substance abuse as "a problem that existed in the past."

"It's something from years ago...that he's taken care of," rep Dan Klores said.

Earlier this week, in the New York Daily News, another Gandolfini flack said the actor, "to [the rep's] knowledge," had never been to rehab. The National Enquirer, citing court papers, said Gandolfini began, but did not complete, a 28-day rehab stint in 2000.

By copping to past drug use, the Sopranos star's camp appears to be trying to control a story that seemingly got out of control last week when the Enquirer published estranged wife Marcy Gandolfini's allegations in court papers that her celebrity hubby was a cocaine and booze binger who had "kinky sex with multiple mistresses."

"To bring [up the drug problem] now, as an attempt to gain leverage and a better settlement during the divorce, is just reprehensible," Klores said in the statement.

A call seeking comment from Marcy Gandolfini's attorney was not returned Friday. Earlier, lawyer Norman Sheresky told the New York Post his client was "devastated by the story" in the Enquirer. (Sheresky, however, did not take issue with the tab's summary of the legal filings.)

Gandolfini, 41, filed for divorce from Marcy in March. The two wed in March 1999. They have a son, Michael, 3.

According to the Enquirer, Marcy Gandolfini's court papers include "more than two dozen names of those she believes James did drugs with, including a number of Sopranos buddies."

The tab says James Gandolfini gets in digs of his own in the legal filings. Court papers filed by his side portray Marcy as an unhinged woman who threatened suicide after he moved out of their New York City apartment last fall, the Enquirer reported.

In other slightly less salacious Sopranos news, Tony's TV kids and two other cast members reportedly are trying to put the squeeze on HBO for more cash.

Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Robert Iler, who play Soprano spawn Meadow and A.J., respectively, and Tony Sirico (aka Paulie Walnuts) and Drea de Matteo (aka Adriana LaCerva), are each seeking to raise their respective rates to $100,000 an episode, the Hollywood Reporter says.

Each of the four actors currently cracks wise for $20,000-$30,000 an episode. (By comparison, Gandolfini, in 2000, inked a two-year deal worth a reported $10 million.)

HBO said Friday it does not comment on contract negotiations.

Costars banding together is a TV negotiating ploy that has worked fabulously (see: The West Wing Gang of Four), and not quite as fabulously (see: those people on Becker who nobody really knows anyway).

The six stars of Friends have perfected the art of the game. With the half-dozen actors operating as a unit, they've seen their paychecks zoom from about $22,500 a show each to $1 million a show each.

Of course, the friends of Friends had eight years during which to earn (and demand) those increases. The Sopranos' mob may have just one more 13-episode season.

The series, now in its fourth year, would not live past a fifth if creator David Chase had his way. Chase has said he's definitely out after the fifth season, with Gandolfini saying he'd follow. HBO owns the series and, in theory, could continue to produce it, although all sides are considering ways of transforming the series into a film after the TV show gets iced.

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