James Gandolfini and HBO Mend Fences

03/17/2003 at 01:00 PM EST

They may not go to the mattresses after all: "The Sopranos" star James Gandolfini and HBO have reportedly inched closer to deal that could keep the mob boss around and put the hit Mob series back on track for its fifth season, The New York Times reports.

Following a weekend of intense negotiations, Gandolfini and HBO both indicated they might drop their respective lawsuits, which threatened to halt production on the new season, due to begin later this month.

Gandolfini, who's seeking a pay raise from his current $400,000-per-episode paycheck, filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against HBO claiming the network failed to properly notify him of plans for a fifth season. The network (which, like PEOPLE, is owned by AOL Time Warner) followed with its own $100 million countersuit last week -- as an indication of just how much the series is worth to the network.

A barrage of verbal accusations and threats has since played out in the media, with both sides accusing the other of brinkmanship.

Gandolfini, who was previously paid $5 million a year, originally requested an increase to $20 million -- an amount on par with many top network stars. He has since reportedly scaled back his request to $16 million for the season.

With cooler heads apparently prevailing, reports indicate that both sides will sit down to resume their discussion in earnest.

"This will end for everyone the way it should have ended from the beginning, because it was in everyone's interest that this be solved," an HBO executive told The Times.

Gandolfini spokesman Dan Klores also put a positive spin on talks, telling Reuters, "The only thing I can say ... is that temperatures are taken down and there is an optimism in the air."

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