(Adds quotes throughout after ceremony)
By Chris Francescani
NEW YORK, June 27 Fellow actors mourned James
Gandolfini as a great craftsman and a warm and generous man at a
his funeral on Thursday, a week after the 51-year-old star of
the HBO television show "The Sopranos" died of a heart attack
while visiting Rome.
"Sopranos" creator David Chase and the actor's wife Deborah
Lin Gandolfini were among four speakers at a packed ceremony for
the actor whose performance as a cigar-chomping New Jersey mob
boss Tony Soprano made him a household name.
Most of the cast of "The Sopranos," including Edie Falco,
who played Tony Soprano's wife, and Michael Imperioli, who
played his nephew Christopher Moltisanti, attended the 90-minute
ceremony at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in
"It was heaven on earth. You could feel James' presence,"
actor George Loros, who played mobster and FBI informant Ray
Curto in the series, said about the funeral.
Loros, who was visibly moved by the service, and other
actors praised Gandolfini's generosity, dedication and talent.
"He could be talking like you and I are talking right now,"
Loros told Reuters, "and then he could be called to the set and
be just brutal (as an actor). He had such a God-given gift."
New York actor Tommy Bayiokos, who worked on the fifth
season of "The Sopranos," described Gandolfini as "a master of
Laila Robins, who played Soprano's mother as a young woman
in the early seasons of the show, said Gandolfini had an acting
coach on the set.
"That was so sweet, and I remember that about him the most -
just how badly he wanted to do a good job. He worked so hard,"
Scores of fans waited in the sweltering heat to get a
glimpse of actors Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro,
Chris Noth and Julianna Margulies, and New Jersey Governor Chris
Christie as they entered the cathedral.
Other fans managed to get into the funeral service, which
was led by the Very Reverend Dr. James A. Kowalski.
On Wednesday about 100 people attended a private wake for
the actor in New Jersey. Gandolfini, who was raised in a
working-class neighborhood, shared Tony Soprano's
Italian-American heritage and New Jersey roots.
Broadway theaters dimmed their marquees on Wednesday night
in memory of the actor, who also had a successful stage career.
Gandolfini collapsed in the bathroom of his hotel room in
Rome while vacationing with his 13-year-old son, Michael. He had
been scheduled to attend the closing of the Taormina Film
Festival in Sicily. He body was flown to the United States on
Gandolfini's portrayal of a gangster who ordered hits on his
enemies and saw a therapist to talk about his insecurities, was
the signature role of his career and won him three Emmy Awards
as best actor in a drama series. The show ran for six seasons.
In 2009 Gandolfini was nominated for a Tony Award for his
role in "God of Carnage." He also appeared in "On the
Waterfront" in 1995 and "A Streetcar Named Desire" in 1992.
The actor had been working on an upcoming HBO series,
"Criminal Justice," and has two films due out next year. He also
appeared in the crime drama "Killing Them Softly" and "Zero Dark
Thirty," a film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Apart from his son Michael with his first wife, who he
divorced in 2002, Gandolfini is survived by his wife and
daughter Liliana, who was born last year.
(Additional reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; writing by
Patricia Reaney; Editing by David Storey)