Autopsy Confirms Gandolfini Died of Heart Attack

Thursday, 20 Jun 2013 05:04 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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An autopsy on the body of James Gandolfini, star of the U.S. Emmy-winning series "The Sopranos," confirmed on Friday that he died of a heart attack, a hospital source said.

The source, who asked not to be identified, said Gandolfini's death late on Wednesday in a Rome hotel was the result of "natural causes, a heart attack".

Gandolfini, 51, whose performance as Tony Soprano made him a household name and help usher in a new era of American television drama, was vacationing in Rome and had been scheduled to attend the closing of the Taormina Film Festival in Sicily on Saturday.

The actor's 13-year-old son, Michael, found him collapsed in the bathroom of his Rome hotel room, Gandolfini's manager, Mark Armstrong, said in an email.

Doctors at the Italian capital's Umberto I hospital were due to announce the autopsy findings later on Friday after officially informing the U.S. embassy and family members, the hospital source said.

Claudio Modini, the emergency room chief, told Reuters on Thursday that doctors had tried to resuscitate Gandolfini for 40 minutes when he arrived at the hospital before declaring him dead.

Meanwhile, Joseph R. Gannascoli, who played closeted gay gangster Vito Spatafore on "The Sopranos," says he considers the tragic death of James Gandolfini a bracing "wake-up call" to take better care of himself.

"I was shocked and saddened and scared a little bit because he's younger than me and he was a big guy and probably didn’t smoke as much as I did," Gannascoli, 54, told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

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"[I'm] hoping it's a wakeup call … He liked a running a gag on the show that he was always eating. To me, he wasn't really in bad shape. He's 6'3" so whether he was at the doctors regularly, I really can't say."

Gandolfini — a beefy, likable actor — shot to superstardom as troubled gangster Tony Soprano on the smash HBO series.

On the Emmy-winning series, Gannascoli's character gets whacked on the orders of Tony Soprano after being caught in a sex act with another man and outed as gay.

Before that scene was filmed, Gandolfini approached Gannascoli to see if he was comfortable with it — a kindness the actor has never forgotten.

"He took me outside and said, 'Look, we can go talk to ['Sopranos' creator] David [Chase] if you don’t feel comfortable doing this,'" Gannascoli said.

"'You're from Brooklyn, you know a lot of guys, you know a lot of people; we could talk to him; you don’t have to do this.' I said, 'Well, Jim … I'll trust them in that they know what they're doing and I'll go ahead and do it."'

Gandolfini, despite his skyrocketing fame, never let it get to his head, according to Gannascoli.

"People should know that he was a just humble, down to earth, regular guy … He came to my wedding with his son like the rest of the cast, but he spoke … in front of everyone [and] said beautiful [things] to me and my wife," he said.

"He came to my restaurant in Bay Ridge when he knew that the rest of the cast members were coming and meeting fans … He was sick as a dog, [it was] pouring rain, and it was cold. There was a line down the block and he stayed until he met everyone and took a picture with everyone."

Gannascoli, whose recent films include "Men in Black 3" and "Fratello," said he was thrilled that Gandolfini had happily remarried five years ago to Deborah Lin and was at peace.

"He found happiness. He was newly married and had a beautiful daughter and a son and that's going to be hard for them," he said.

"I just kept thinking about the kids and his new daughter, who's eight months old."

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