Godfather and Brian’s Song star James Caan dies

James Caan (March 26, 1940 – July 6, 2022 CREDIT: Shutterstock)

Academy Award and Primetime Emmy Award-nominated actor and star of The Godfather, Misery, Elf, Thief, and Brian’s Song, James Caan has passed away at age 82.

News of his passing was shared on his official Twitter account:

James Edmund Caan, known as “Jimmy” to his friends, was born March 26, 1940 in the Bronx, New York and grew up in Sunnyside, Queens. Caan originally wanted to play football at Michigan State, but did not make the team.

He then returned to New York and attended Hofstra University in Long Island where he was bitten by the acting bug. He left Hofstra and enrolled in New York City’s Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, where he studied for five years.

In the 1960s, Caan began appearing off-Broadway in plays including La Ronde before making his Broadway debut in Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole. He appeared in many TV shows throughout the decade including an episode of Naked City, episodes of Play of the Week, Route 66, Alcoa Premiere, The Untouchables, The Doctors and the Nurses, Wide Country, Death Valley Days, Combat! as a clever German sergeant, and Dr. Kildare. His first film was Irma la Douce, in which he had an uncredited part as a sailor.

Caan’s first substantial film role was as a punk hoodlum in the 1964 thriller Lady in a Cage. He had roles in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Wagon Train and was also in a Western feature, The Glory Guys which earned him his first of four Golden Globe nominations. 

In 1965, Caan landed his first starring role, in Howard Hawks’ drama Red Line 7000. Hawks liked Caan so much that he cast him in his next film, El Dorado. He then had the starring role in Robert Altman’s second feature film, Countdown and was in the Curtis Harrington thriller Games. In 1969, he won praise for his role as a football player suffering from a traumatic brain injury in Coppola’s The Rain People.

After turning down the role FOUR TIMES, Caan begrudgingly returned to the small screen in 1971 to appear in Brian’s Song opposite Billy Dee Williams. Caan’s performance in the ABC TV movie as dying football player Brian Piccolo, earned him an Emmy nomination

After successfully showing the world how talented he really was, Coppola jumped at the chance to work with him again and cast him as the short-tempered Sonny Corleone in The Godfather. Caan was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as well as a Golden Globe for his performance in the film. Caan was so convincing in that role that he told Vanity Fair in 2009 that he was once denied entry to a country club because they believed him to be a real life mobster. 

Caan earned 4 Golden Globe nominations for The Glory Guys, The Godfather, The Gambler, and Funny Lady and in 1978, Caan was awarded a motion pictures star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

But he wasn’t done yet. While the ’70s was a great decade for Caan, he continued to build his impressive resume with iconic films such as Dick Tracy, Rollerball, Mickey Blue Eyes, and Honeymoon in Vegas.

In 1990, he played fictional novelist Paul Sheldon who gets kidnapped, tortured, and hobbled by Kathy Bates who played a deranged fan named Annie Wilkes who was desperate for the novelist to change the fate of her favorite characters. The Stephen King film, Misery, directed by Rob Reiner, was utterly terrifying and Caan’s performance was impeccable. 

Caan introduced himself to a whole new generation of fans by starring in Elf with Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel as the biological father of a grown man who believed himself to be one of Santa’s elves. He was also the voice of Tim Lockwood, the cranky father of Flint Lockwood in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, and its sequel. 

As news of his passing swept across the internet, many took to social media to pay their respects:

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At this time, no cause of death has been disclosed by his family or management. Caan is survived by five children, including his son Scott, who followed in his footsteps and is steadily making a name for himself as an actor as well in the hit CBS series Hawai’i Five-O. 

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