Friend reports James Gandolfini died of heart attack

NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press
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Actor James Gandolfini (AP Photo)

Actor James Gandolfini (AP Photo)

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ROME (AP) — An autopsy on James Gandolfini has confirmed the “Sopranos” star died of a heart attack, with no evidence of substance abuse or foul play, a family spokesman said Friday.

Michael Kobold told reporters that Gandolfini’s body has been released to a funeral director and that the family was working with the Italian government to speed up the bureaucratic red tape to get the body back to the United States soon.

While the process can take up to 10 days, Kobold said the family was hoping to have the body repatriated by mid-week with a funeral planned in New York by June 29 at the latest.

Gandolfini, 51, died Wednesday night. His body was discovered in a Rome hotel room by a family member.

He had arrived in Rome on Tuesday and spent his first full day in the Eternal City with his teen-age son, visiting the Vatican and dining in the hotel, the luxury Boscolo Exedra. They dined together in the hotel on Wednesday night, awaiting the arrival in Rome of Gandolfini’s sister, Leta.

“He had a wonderful day,” Kobold said of the father-son vacation.

Asked if Gandolfini had a history of heart problems, Kobold said he was healthy.

“There’s nothing out of the ordinary. It was a heart attack. It was a natural cause,” he said. “There was no foul play, no substance abuse. None of that.”

Morgue officials at Rome’s Policlinico Umberto I hospital said the U.S. Embassy had told them not to speak to the media, and that a family representative would provide the results of the autopsy. Kobold, a longtime family friend, said he had been asked by the family to act as its spokesman.

While he provided no written evidence of the autopsy results, the director of the emergency room at the hospital, Dr. Claudio Modini, said on Thursday that Gandolfini had suffered a cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac arrest can be due to a heart attack, a heart rhythm problem, or as a result of trauma.

Leta went to the morgue on Friday to formally identify the body.

Gandolfini was to have helped preside over the closing ceremony on Saturday of the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily. The festival instead is organizing a tribute to him.

His portrayal of criminal Tony Soprano in HBO’s landmark drama series “The Sopranos” was just one facet of his rich legacy as an actor in movies and plays.

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