Actor James Gandolfini, who plays mob boss Tony Soprano on the HBO hit series, filed suit against the cabler Thursday in California Superior Court seeking declaratory relief that would free him from being obliged to return for the next season of the show, Variety reports.
The lawsuit alleges that Gandolfini was not properly notified within 10 days after HBO agreed to pay Sopranos creator David Chase $20 million for the show's fifth season, which is scheduled to begin shooting March 24.
Gandolfini claims this is a violation of his contract and wants to be free of the pact. The actor also claims the contract would exceed the seven-year limit for personal services contracts by the time a sixth season was ordered.
The burly Sopranos star receives about $400,000 an episode under a deal renegotiated after the first season of "The Sopranos," according to Variety, which follows roughly in line with stars like Martin Sheen of NBC's The West Wing but far below the $1.6 million per episode paid to Kelsey Grammer for NBC's Frasier.
Several other actors on The Sopranos, including Michael Imperioli, Tony Sirico and Jamie Lynn Sigler, have recently renegotiated their contracts in recent months, according to reports in industry trade publications.
The suit took HBO executives, who were in the midst of sweetening Gandolfini's deal for the upcoming season, by surprise. An HBO spokeswoman told Variety, "This is nothing more than a further renegotiation tactic by an actor with a binding contract."