Friends, family and fans mourn Gandolfini in NYC funeral

Story highlights

  • Funeral for James Gandolfini is held Thursday in New York City
  • 'The Sopranos' creator was scheduled to speak
  • Family and close friends attended a private wake Wednesday in New Jersey

Playing an anxiety-filled mobster made him famous, but it was the beloved, talented man stars and politicians turned out to bid farewell to on Thursday.

A funeral service was held for James Gandolfini at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City where his friends, family, fans and co-stars came together to mourn the loss of the 51-year-old actor, who died of a heart attack while in Italy on June 20.

"The Sopranos" creator David Chase was scheduled to speak during the service, along with Gandolfini's widow, Deborah Lin Gandolfini, and two family friends. Gandolfini found fame starring as mob boss Tony Soprano on Chase's hit HBO series.

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Cast members from that show, including Lorraine Bracco and Tony Sirico, embraced others as they arrived. Spectators stood nearby as they watched a wide range of well-knowns enter the church, from actor Alec Baldwin to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

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In addition to the remembrances by family and friends, the 90-minute service was to include traditional hymns and contemporary selections, according to HBO. The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine was selected because it is large enough to accommodate the multitude of family, friends and fans expected to attend, an HBO representative said.

Despite reports the network planned to film the funeral, "HBO is not recording it. It is being recorded for personal archival usage," a spokesperson from that company told CNN.

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The service followed a private wake held Wednesday at a funeral home in Park Ridge, New Jersey, the New York Daily News reported. The invitation-only event drew tearful family and friends who grappled with their loss.

"It's a nightmare for the whole family," Bob Price, who is married to one of Gandolfini's cousins, told the Daily News. "It's a horrible, horrible thing. Everybody is just devastated."

Wednesday evening, Broadway dimmed its lights in memory of the actor, who was nominated for a Tony Award in 2009 for his work in the play "God of Carnage."