By Chris Francescani
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Family, friends and fans of actor James Gandolfini gathered at a Manhattan cathedral for his funeral on Thursday, a week after the 51-year-old star of the HBO television show "The Sopranos" died of a heart attack while visiting Rome.
Police set up barricades in front of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in upper Manhattan as fans waited to get a glimpse of mourners of the actor whose performance as the burly, cigar-smoking New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano made him a household name.
"He was just so friendly and sweet and humble," actress Laila Robins, who played Tony Soprano's mother as a young woman in the early seasons of the show, said as she arrived for the funeral.
Several members of the cast of "The Sopranos," along with celebrities including Alec Baldwin and his pregnant wife Hilaria Thomas, were escorted into a side entrance of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine.
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 inside the massive cathedral. The public was to be allowed in after the invited guests.
The creator of "The Sopranos," David Chase, is one of four people scheduled to offer remembrances during the ceremony. The others are his widow, Deborah Lin Gandolfini, and two family friends.
There are cameras in the church, but they are HBO cameras, as the network is footing the bill for the funeral and taping the entire ceremony for what it says is a special video just for family members.