Chase speaking at Gandolfini's funeral

Associated Press
Actor Dominic Chianese, left, arrives at the the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine ahead of the funeral service for James Gandolfini, Thursday, June 27, 2013 in New York. Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano in the HBO show "The Sopranos", died while vacationing in Italy last week. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
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NEW YORK (AP) — Mourners gathered Thursday for the funeral of James Gandolfini and the creator of "The Sopranos" is due to memorialize the actor at the ceremony.

David Chase is one of four people scheduled to offer remembrances during the ceremony at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. The others are his widow, Deborah Lin Gandolfini, and two family friends.

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.

Invited guests began gathering early for the 10 a.m. funeral. Dick Cavett chatted with actor Steve Buscemi near the front of the church. Aida Turturro, who played Gandolfini's sister in "The Sopranos," was one of the first from that show's large cast to arrive.

Some 1,500 seats had been set up. The public was to be allowed in after the invited guests.

A private family wake was held for the actor Wednesday in New Jersey.

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, from Harlem. "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."

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."

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Associated Press correspondent Bethan McKernan contributed to this report.

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