ROME -- A friend of "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini said Thursday the actor was discovered by a family member in his hotel room in Rome before he was pronounced dead of cardiac arrest at a hospital.
Michael Kobold, who described himself as a close family friend, read a short statement to reporters, but said little more about the circumstances of Gandolfini's death on Wednesday night.
He did not say who discovered Gandolfini, 51, but NBC quoted Antonio D'Amore, manager of the Boscolo Excedra hotel, as saying it was the actor's 13-year-old son, Michael.
Gandolfini had appeared in advertisements for Kobold's company, Kobold Watches.
Gandolfini was pronounced dead at 11 p.m. Wednesday in Rome after being taken by ambulance to the Policlinic Umberto I hospital.
Dr. Claudio Modini, head of the hospital emergency room, said Gandolfini arrived at the hospital at 10:40 p.m. (2040 GMT; 4:40 p.m. EDT) and was pronounced dead after resuscitation efforts in the ambulance and hospital failed.
An autopsy would be performed starting 24 hours after the death, as required by law, he told The Associated Press.
The actor, known for his portrayal of the tortured Italian-American mob boss Tony Soprano was to have given a special class at the Taormina Film Festival, an annual festival that takes place against the backdrop of Taormina's spectacular Roman amphitheater. Actor Jeremy Irons gave a similar class earlier in the week.
Gandolfini was to have been given the "Taormina City Prize" on Saturday before attending the festival's closing ceremony alongside actress Marisa Tomei.
Festival organizers Mario Sesti and Tiziana Rocca said instead they would organize a tribute "to celebrate his great achievement and talent." They said they had heard from Gandolfini a few hours before he died and "he was very happy to receive this award and be able to travel to Italy."
The U.S. Embassy in Rome, which said it had learned about the death from the media, said it would be available to provide a death certificate and help prepare the body for return to the United States. The embassy said it can often take between four and seven days to arrange for it to be sent outside of Italy.
The embassy spokesman declined further comment, directing inquiries to the family.
It isn't yet known yet what caused his heart to stop beating. Sudden cardiac arrest can be due to a heart attack, a heart rhythm problem, or as a result of trauma. The chance of cardiac arrest increases as people get older; men over age 45 have a greater risk. Men in general are up to three times more likely to have a sudden cardiac arrest than women.