Gandolfini's body returns to U.S. for funeral services

James Gandolfini

James Gandolfini (Credit: James Gandolfini (Getty Images))

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

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

The actor's body left Rome's Fiumicino airport at around noon on a private flight, an airport official said.

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

Kobold also thanked former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "for their kind support," Variety reported.

Gandolfini's funeral is scheduled for Thursday at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on the Upper West Side at 10 a.m., HBO confirmed on behalf of the Gandolfini family.

The actor 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 he 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 "Where the Wild Things Are" and the Oscar-nominated "Zero Dark Thirty."

He was working on an upcoming HBO series, "Criminal Justice," and had two films due out next year.

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