According to the late actor's "The Sopranos" co-stars Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa, Gandolfini was approached by rival U.S. TV chiefs at NBC to fulfil the lead role as branch manager on "The Office" following Steve Carell's exit in 2011, four years after the beloved HBO mob drama series went off air.
However, HBO executives were so determined to maintain Gandolfini's links to his Tony Soprano character, they offered him a massive payday to do nothing.
Imperioli and Schirripa shared the fascinating news on the latest episode of their "Talking Sopranos" podcast as they chatted to British comedian and original "The Office" co-creator Ricky Gervais.
"You know, they talked about having Gandolfini at one point replace him (Steve Carell) - did you know that?" Imperioli asked, as Schirripa explained, "I think before James Spader and after Carell, they offered Jim (Gandolfini), I want to say, $4 million to play him (branch manager) for the season - and HBO paid him $3 million not to do it. That's a fact."
"Jim was going do it because he hadn't worked, and it was a number of years removed from when the show ended."
"So they paid him that to keep the legacy of The Sopranos pure?" asked Gervais, as Schirripa replied, "I guess that and also he had a deal with them."
At the time, Gandolfini had been helping to develop the HBO mini-series "The Night Of", which didn't premiere until 2016 - three years after the actor suffered a fatal heart attack, aged 51.
HBO bosses have continued to keep Gandolfini's "The Sopranos" legacy alive by casting his son, Michael, as a younger version of Tony Soprano in the upcoming prequel film, "The Many Saints of Newark".