Over 1,500 mourners attend James Gandolfini funeral
Story by Jack Foley
MORE than 1,500 mourners, including many of his former Sopranos cast members, attended the funeral of James Gandolfini in New York on Thursday, June 27, 2013.
Held at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in Morningside Heights, the service offered friends, family and former colleagues the chance to say farewell to the actor and to remember his professional and personal achievements with fondness and tears.
The 51-year-old star died suddenly while on holiday in Italy on June 19 after suffering a heart attack, leaving his wife, Deborah Lin Gandolfini, and his children, Michael, 13, and nine-month-old daughter Liliana.
The packed congregation included a number of well known faces, many of whom starred with him in The Sopranos, including Steve Buscemi, Lorraine Bracco, Edie Falco, Aida Turturro, Tony Sirico and Vincent Curatola.
Dustin Hoffman, John Turturro, Hope Davis, Marcia Gay Harden and Julianna Margulies were also among the attendees.
David Chase, who created the show that turned Gandolfini into a household name and one of the most revered actors of his generation, was among the speakers.
Remembering his friend in the form of a letter to the actor, in the present tense, he credited him with bringing the traits of a sad boy, “amazed and confused,” to the iconic role of Tony Soprano.
“You could see it in your eyes. That’s why you were a great actor.”
The writer went on to recall how Gandolfini once told him: “You know what I want to be? A man. That’s all. I want to be a man.” Adding that he marvelled upon hearing that, since the actor represented a man so many others wanted to be.
The Very Reverend Dr. James A. Kowalski, who officiated the ceremony, also recalled being a fan of The Sopranos, even though this admission had previously surprised members of the congregation given its violent content.
But he noted: “If the violent gangster could get me to think about family and conflict, then maybe there is this thing called hope.”
Deborah Lin Gandolfini paid tribute to her husband’s kindness and said that even though his funeral had attracted a church filled with famous people, “ironically, he was very private”.
But she added that he had a generous nature and kind heart, saying: “People mattered to him. He was always secretly helping someone.”
The funeral took place a day after a private family wake was held in New Jersey on Wednesday.
Broadway theatres later paid tribute to the actor, who was nominated for a Tony Award in 2009 for his role in God of Carnage, by dimming their lights.