June 23, 2013 / 4:25 PM / 6 years ago

Body of Sopranos star Gandolfini leaves Italy for U.S

Cast member James Gandolfini arrives on the red carpet for the film "Violet & Daisy" during the 36th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), September 15, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

ROME (Reuters) - The body of actor James Gandolfini, who died of a heart attack in Rome last week, was flown out of Italy on Sunday on a flight bound for New York, Rome airport authorities said.

Gandolfini, best known for his leading role in the Emmy-winning series “The Sopranos”, was found dead in his Rome hotel late on Wednesday.

The actor’s body left Rome’s Fiumicino airport at around 1600 GMT (1200 ET) on a private flight, an airport official said.

Family friend Michael Kobold, speaking to reporters in Rome, thanked the Italian authorities and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for helping to accelerate procedures.

Gandolfini was on holiday in Italy with his 13-year-old son and was due to attend the closing of the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily on Saturday. An autopsy showed had died of natural causes.

Gandolfini’s performance as New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano made him a household name and helped usher in a new era of American television drama.

Since “The Sopranos” ended its six-season run in June 2007, Gandolfini had appeared in a number of big-screen roles, including the crime drama “Killing Them Softly” and “Zero Dark Thirty”, a film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

Gandolfini had been working on an upcoming HBO series, “Criminal Justice,” and had two films due out next year.

Reporting by Cristiano Corvino; Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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