James Gandolfini’s funeral took place today at New York’s Cathedral of Saint John. It was attended by 1,800 friends, family, and fans. Alan Sepinwall over at HitFix has a transcript of the eulogy that Sopranos creator David Chase read. Here is a portion:
I asked around, and experts told me to start with a joke and 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 writing to you 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 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. I think that could happen in here, except in your case, it didn’t matter that it didn’t make sense, because the feeling was real. The feeling was real. The feeling was real. I can’t say that enough.
I tried to write a traditional eulogy, but it came out like bad TV. So I’m writing you this letter, and now I’m reading that letter in front of you. But it is being done to and for an audience, so I’ll give the funny opening a try. I hope that it’s funny; it is to me and it is to you.
And that is, one day toward the end of the show — maybe season 4 or season 5 — we were on the set shooting a scene with Stevie Van Zandt, and I think the set-up was that Tony had received news of the death of someone, and it was inconvenient for him. And it said, “Tony opens the refrigerator door, closes it and he starts to speak.” And the cameras rolled, and you opened the refrigerator door, and you slammed it really hard — you slammed it hard enough that it came open again. And so then you slammed it again, then it came open again. You kept slamming it and slamming it and slamming it and slamming it and went apeshit on that refrigerator.
And the funny part for me is I remember Steven Van Zandt — because the cameras are going, we have to play this whole scene with a refrigerator door opening — I remember Steven Van Zandt standing there with his lip out, trying to figure out, “Well, what should I do? First, as Silvio, because he just ruined my refrigerator. And also as Steven the actor, because we’re now going to play a scene with the refrigerator door open; people don’t do that.” And I remember him going over there and trying to tinker with the door and fix it, and it didn’t work. And so we finally had to call cut, and we had to fix the refrigerator door, and it never really worked, because the gaffer tape showed on the refrigerator, and it was a problem all day long. And I remember you saying, “Ah, this role, this role, the places it takes me to, the things I have to do, it’s so dark.” And I remember telling you, “Did I tell you to destroy the refrigerator? Did it say anywhere in the script, ‘Tony destroys a refrigerator’? It says ‘Tony angrily shuts the refrigerator door.’ That’s what it says. You destroyed the fridge.”
Another memory of you that comes to mind is from very early on — might have been the pilot, I don’t know. We were shooting in that really hot and humid summer New Jersey heat. And I looked over, and you were sitting in an aluminum beach chair, with your slacks rolled up to your knees, in black socks and black shoes, and a wet handkerchief on your head. And I remember looking over there and going, “Well, that’s really not a cool look.” But I was filled with love, and I knew then that I was in the right place. I said, “Wow, I haven’t seen that done since my father used to do it, and my Italian uncles use to do it, and my Italian grandfather used to do it.” And they were laborers in the same hot sun in New Jersey. They were stone masons, and your father worked with concrete. I don’t know what it is with Italians and cement. And I was so proud of our heritage — it made me so proud of our heritage to see you do that.