HBO execs feared death of ‘Sopranos’ star James Gandolfini

A new tell-all book about what went down behind the scenes at HBO is shedding some light on “Sopranos” star James Gandolfini’s health.

“Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers,” written by journalist James Andrew Miller, dishes all the dirt on the iconic cable network. Former Time Warner chairman and CEO — and HBO head — Jeff Bewkes spoke to Miller about the mob drama’s six-season run and how executives were reportedly worried about Gandolfini “staying alive.” The actor passed away in 2013 after suffering a heart attack at 51.

“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 in the book.

He explained that the production delays cost a hefty penny and “was hard on the other actors’ schedules.” Bewkes also said that he “didn’t pressure” former HBO chairman, Chris Albrecht, about Gandolfini skipping work because he “thought Jimmy was embarrassed.”

“The Sopranos” cast promo shoot in 1999 during the show’s first season.
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During award season, Gandolfini would bring “two or three bottles of good Italian wine, so we didn’t have to drink the s – – t Merlot they serve at the [Golden] Globes.”

“Like he would be embarrassed if I knew he was drinking at the table,” Bewkes continued. “I drank with him thinking it would calm him down. I guess I was stupid.”

James Gandolfini
James Gandolfini passed away in 2013 after suffering a heart attack at age 51.
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Gandolfini played mob boss Tony Soprano from 1999 until the series’ end in 2007.

James Gandolfini and Steve Van Zandt
Friends, family and network executives attempted an intervention for James Gandolfini (right), according to HBO chairman Chris Albrecht.
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Albrecht was also interviewed for the book and revealed that the network hosted an intervention at his apartment in Manhattan. “The intervention wasn’t my idea. I think [it was] his family’s idea because his sister was there. It was definitely a crisis situation,” Albrecht said. 

However, Albrecht claimed he wasn’t all that anxious about Gandolfini’s health at the time.

“I don’t remember us being worried he was going to die, but it became a real problem with shooting the show . . . It became a lack of respect for the other actors as well, so there were sort of problems that bubbled up,” he said.

When detailing the “disastrous” intervention, Gandolfini entered the apartment where he found his loved ones waiting for him. In a flurry of expletives, the actor screamed, “Oh, f – – k this. F – – k all of you.” The actor left the building after he dared Albrecht to fire him.

Tony soprano
James Gandolfini (center) played mob boss Tony Soprano during the six-season run of “The Sopranos.”
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“Tinderbox: HBO’s Ruthless Pursuit of New Frontiers” (Henry Holt and Co.) is out on bookseller shelves and online now.