NEW YORK — The creator of “The Sopranos” said at James Gandolfini’s funeral that the actor brought the traits of a sad boy, “amazed and confused,” to the role of Tony Soprano.
“You were a good boy,” David Chase said Thursday at the ceremony at New York’s Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine.
One of four speakers at the funeral, Chase gave his remarks in the form of a letter to Gandolfini. The actor’s widow, Deborah Lin Gandolfini, and two family friends were also speakers at the ceremony.
Chase remembered that Gandolfini once told him that “you know what I want to be? A man. That’s all. I want to be a man.” Chase said he marveled upon hearing that, since Gandolfini was a man so many others looked up to.
Chase added that, paradoxically, he always felt that in Gandolfini he was seeing a young boy as well as a man.
“A sad boy, amazed and confused,” he said. “You could see it in your eyes. That’s why you were a great actor.”
The 51-year-old actor best known for his role as mob boss Tony Soprano in the HBO series died of a heart attack last week while vacationing with his son in Italy.
Celebrities and fellow actors were among the mourners, along with members of the public who wanted to salute Gandolfini’s work.
Those from “The Sopranos” included Edie Falco, Joe Pantoliano, Dominic Chianese, Steve Schirripa, Aida Turturro, Vincent Curatola, Tony Sirico, Lorraine Bracco and Michael Imperioli. Yet another former castmate, Steve Buscemi, chatted with talk show host-comedian Dick Cavett before the ceremony started.
Others from the acting community included Julianna Margulies, Alec Baldwin, Chris Noth, Marcia Gay Harden and Steve Carell. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was also on hand.
Some 1,500 seats had been set up in the huge sanctuary. A private family wake was held for the actor Wednesday in New Jersey.
Broadway theaters paid tribute by dimming their lights briefly Wednesday night. Gandolfini was nominated for a Tony Award in 2009 as an actor in “God of Carnage.”
Susan Aston, who was Gandolfini’s longtime dialogue coach and collaborator, spoke at the funeral of how the actor was devoted to his craft.
“He worked hard,” Aston said. “He was disciplined. He studied his roles and did his homework.” But when the cameras rolled, his performance would become an act of faith that carried him, she said, “to an uncharted place.”
New Jersey accents were easy to hear among members of the public waiting outside the cathedral and waiting for a chance to get in. A few people spoke in Italian.
“I’m a fan,” said Saul Stein, 60. “I came to pay my respects today because he’s a character I identify with, a family man.”
One casual meeting with Gandolfini was enough to bring Robin Eckstein to the funeral.
“I had friends that worked with him,” she said. “I had the pleasure of meeting him a few times and he was just lovely. So warm … As soon as he knew you were a friend of a friend you were his friend too. He’ll be missed. I missed a meeting at work today. I told them I had a funeral to go to.”
Meanwhile, directly across Amsterdam Avenue, in the window of a bar, a large photograph of a grinning Gandolfini was on display, accompanied by a handwritten message that spoke for the actor’s fans and friends. It said, simply, “Thank you.”
Associated Press correspondent Bethan McKernan and Television Writer David Bauder contributed to this report.