THE SOPRANO's lead star James Gandolfini has handed out $500,000 (GBP333,000) to his co-stars on the hit show - following his acrimonious salary battle with the TV drama's producers.

Gandolfini attracted bad publicity with his reported wage demands when re-negotiating his salary with American network HBO for the present series of the hit mobster series - but he's sought to readdress the balance by handing out five figure cheques to his fellow stars as they prepare to sign up for a sixth season.

Cast members, including Edie Falco, Lorraine Bracco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese and TONY SIRICO, have been the lucky recipients of Gandolfini's generosity, following his receipt of the first advance of profits generated by the American show.

A source close to the actor says, "It was always part of his plan (during the renegotiations) to share some of the wealth with the other actors. He has always called this show an ensemble, from day one."

12/06/2003 17:35