One of Hollywood’s greatest leading men has died. James Caan, the star of movies as varied as Rollerball, A Bridge Too Far, and Honeymoon in Vegas has died. He was 82 years old.
Caan’s family announced the news on Caan’s own Twitter account, writing that he passed away “on the evening of July 6. They added “The family appreciates the outpouring of live and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”
They concluded the announcement with an “End of tweet” – the same line Caan himself had used to end everything he sent on Twitter through the years. Like this, just a few weeks ago.
That of course was Caan on the set of his most famous movie, The Godfather, where he played the fiery Sonny Corleone opposite Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, and Robert Duvall. As the first-born son of Don Vito, Sonny becomes the leader of the family after the Godfather is attacked by some of his rivals. For his work in the film, Caan was nominated for an Academy Award. Caan also made a brief cameo in The Godfather Part II.
Born in the Bronx in 1940, Caan took an interest in acting in college and started working off-Broadway around New York City. After some TV roles he got his first major film part in Howard Hawks’ Red Line 7000, the teamed with Hawks again on El Dorado, where he played opposite John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. Around the same time he also appeared in The Rain People, an early film from an up-and-coming director named Francis Ford Coppola.
His first major breakthrough came in a TV film, when he played the famous real-life football star Brian Piccolo in Brian’s Song. The tragic true-life story became a massive hit, and is widely regarded as one of the best TV movies ever.
The Godfather cemented Caan’s status as one of the brightest stars of his generation and he worked steadily for decades after that. Some of his best work came in 1981’s Thief, playing a career burglar who wants to do one last score so he can quit his life of crime.
About a decade later, he hit another career highpoint in Misery, the adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about an author (Caan) who is kidnapped by a deranged fan (Kathy Bates).
These highlights barely scratch the surface of Caan‘s long and varied career, which also included movies like The Gambler, Freebie and the Bean, Alien Nation, Dick Tracy, Bottle Rocket, Eraser, and The Yards. He also had numerous TV guest appearances, and a starring role on the 2000s NBC series Las Vegas. Caan stayed busy right up to the end of his life; appeared last year in the romantic comedy Queen Bees opposite Ellen Burstyn.
All in all it was an incredible life and career. (One of his five children, Scott Caan, is a successful actor in his own right.) He will be dearly missed, but thanks to movies like The Godfather and Misery, he won’t be forgotten.
End of piece.
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