ROME — The Taormina Film Festival in Sicily on Thursday mourned James Gandolfini and prepared to pay tribute to the late actor whose body lies in the morgue of Rome’s Policlinico Umberto I hospital.
Doctor Claudio Modini, head of the hospital’s emergency room said the cause of death was “probably” a heart attack, adding that he could not be sure until after the autopsy.
Modini at a press conference said Gandolfini arrived at the emergency room at 10:40 p.m. Wednesday night and was pronounced dead 20 minutes later, after failed attempts to resuscitate him in the ambulance and at the hospital.
According to Italian news agencies, Gandolfini was travelling in Italy with his 13-year-old son Micheal, ahead of his scheduled June 22 on-stage conversation in Taormina. He suffered from a heart attack in the bathroom of Rome’s Hotel Exedra. His son reportedly alerted hotel staff.
Gandolfini was still alive when the ambulance arrived at the hotel, according to AGI.
The coroner at Rome’s Policlinico Umberto I, Antonio Spasola, said the autopsy will be performed on Saturday.
Once the U.S. Embassy in Rome issues a death certificate, Gandolfini’s body can be returned to the United States.
“James Gandolfini was an Italian-American, and has represented an excellent example of the deep cultural contribution made by Italians to American society,” the embassy said in a statement posted in Italian on its website.
Taormina artistic director Mario Sesti and general manager Tiziana Rocca on Thursday issued a joint statement saying they had spoken to Gandolfini just hours before he died, and that he had told them he was very happy to be in Italy.
“He was the American actor that better than anyone else has been able to interpret the Italian-American with his personality full of contrasts, ambition, pain, humor. He was the face of the golden age of television, but also a memorable film actor,” they commented.
Gandolfini was scheduled to receive the City of Taormina award on Saturday and also hold a conversation on the stage of the town’s Greek Theater with Sesti, Marisa Tomei, and Italian director Gabriele Muccino. Instead, he will be fondly remembered on that stage by Variety executive editor Steven Gaydos.