Earlier this morning, friends, family, and hundreds of fans gathered to pay their respects to James Gandolfini at Manhattan’s Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. Four mourners — Gandolfini’s wife, Deborah Lin Gandolfini; his assistant, Thomas Richardson; his acting coach, Susan Aston; and his old boss, Sopranos creator David Chase — delivered eulogies at the service.
A transcript of Chase’s speech, which he structured as a letter to his late friend, is reprinted below.
Your family asked me to speak at this service. I am so honored and touched. I’m also really scared, and I say that because you, of all people, understand this. I would like to run away and then call you four days from now from the beauty parlor. [Ed. note: That’s a reference to a 2002 incident in which Gandolfini disappeared from the set of The Sopranos, eventually calling the show’s production office four days later from a beauty salon in Brooklyn.]
I want to do a good job because I love you, and because you always did a good job.
I think the deal is, I’m supposed to speak about the actor, the artist, the work part of your life. Others will have spoken beautifully about the other beautiful and magnificent parts of you — father, brother, friend. That’s what I was told. I’m supposed to also speak for your cast mates, who you loved; for your crew that you loved so much; the people at HBO; and Journey. I hope I can speak for all of them and pay credit to them and to you.
Experts told me to start with a joke, recite a funny anecdote. Ha ha ha. But as you yourself so often said, “I’m not feelin’ it.” I’m too sad and full of despair. I’m running too partly because I would like to have had your advice, because I remember how you did speeches. I saw you do a lot of them at awards shows and stuff, and invariably, I think you would scratch two or three thoughts on a sheet of paper and put it in your pocket, and then not really refer to it. And consequently, a lot of your speeches didn’t make sense.
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