James Gandolfini's body has been returned to the US.

The late 'Sopranos' actor - who died from a heart attack while in Rome, Italy, last week - was transported by private jet from the Italian city to his home state of New Jersey ahead of his funeral on Thursday (27.06.13), according to TMZ.

The 51-year-old star's body was expected to be returned home today (24.06.13) after his body was released by Italian authorities, but it appears plans were moved up, with a plane arriving with James at Newark Airport last night (23.06.13) at 9pm EST.

The body was swiftly taken to a funeral home, where the actor will remain until his service on Thursday, which is expected to take place at Cathedral of St. John the Divine in upper-Manhattan in New York City.

James was on vacation with his 13-year-old son Michael - from his first marriage to Marcy Wudarski - in Rome at the time of his death last Wednesday (19.06.13). He was due to travel to Sicily for the Taormina Film Festival, where he was expected to be honoured with an accolade.

The critically acclaimed star earned three Emmy Awards for his role as mobster Tony Soprano in hit TV drama 'The Sopranos', which aired between 1999 and 2007.

James is survived by his second wife Deborah Lin and their eight-month-old daughter Liliana.