NBC 4 New York
Hundreds of family, friends and longtime admirers remembered New Jersey native and TV icon James Gandolfini. David Ushery reports.
Hundreds of family, friends and longtime admirers remembered New Jersey native and TV icon James Gandolfini as a talented actor, devoted family man and loving friend who "had so much more to give."
His wife, family friends and the creator of "The Sopranos," David Chase, spoke at the service at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in Morningside Heights in New York. Famous co-stars and Hollywood friends of the actor also attended.
Fellow "Sopranos" stars were Edie Falco, Joe Pantoliano, Dominic Chianese, Steve Schirripa, Aida Turturro, Vincent Curatola and Michael Imperioli. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made an appearance.
The 51-year-old Gandolfini died of a heart attack last week while vacationing in Italy with his family. They found him in his hotel room.
"He had so much more to give, he had so much more to live," family friend Thomas Richardson told mourners.
Chase said, as though he were speaking to Gandolfini: "someone told me to start out with a joke... As you would have said, 'I'm not feeling it.' I'm too sad and full of despair."
Pantoliano, who played mobster Ralph Cifaretto in "The Sopranos" for nearly half a decade, told NBC 4 New York he was "sad and confused" by his former colleague's death.
"This was a kid from New Jersey who wanted to be an artist. He was one of the greatest character actors of all time who deserve to go around the track more times," Pantoliano said as he exited a deli near the church Thursday. "I don't know if he knew how much he was loved by all of us."
Susan Anton, who was Gandolfini's longtime dialogue coach and collaborator, spoke of how the actor struggled with his work.
"He worked hard," Anton said. "He was disciplined. He studied his roles and did his homework." But when the cameras rolled, his work was an act of faith that carried him to an uncharted place, she said.
Gandolfini grew up in Park Ridge, attended Park Ridge High School and received a bachelor's degree in communication studies from Rutgers University. He was the son of a building maintenance chief at a Catholic school and a high school lunch lady.
Gandolfini and his wife, Deborah, who were married in 2008, have an 8-month-old daughter, Liliana. The actor and his former wife, Marcy, have a teenage son, Michael.
One casual meeting with Gandolfini was enough to bring Robin Eckstein to the funeral.
"I had friends that worked with him," she said. "I had the pleasure of meeting him a few times and he was just lovely. So warm ... As soon as he knew you were a friend of a friend you were his friend too. He'll be missed. I missed a meeting at work today. I told them I had a funeral to go to."
Broadway theaters paid tribute by dimming their lights briefly Wednesday night. Gandolfini was nominated for a Tony Award in 2009 as an actor in "God of Carnage."