Friend: James Gandolfini died of heart attack
ROME (AP) — An autopsy on James Gandolfini has found that 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 staying at the luxury Boscolo Exedra hotel. 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 in response to questions about the autopsy. “There was no foul play, no substance abuse. None of that.”
The Associated Press couldn’t independently confirm the results of the autopsy, and it wasn’t clear if Italian officials would independently release them.
In 2002, allegations of drug use by Gandolfini spilled into tabloid reports during his divorce case with his first wife, Marcy Wudarski. Gandolfini’s then publicist Dan Klores was quoted as acknowledging the actor’s prior drug and alcohol abuse, but claimed it was “a problem that existed in the past.”
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 information about the autopsy. Kobold, a longtime family friend, said he had been asked by the family to act as its spokesman.
Kobold provided no written evidence of the autopsy results. The director of the emergency room at the hospital, Dr. Claudio Modini, said on Thursday prior to the autopsy 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.