The Godfather actor James Caan passes away
Hollywood actor James Caan died on Wednesday evening at age 82.
James Caan, the curly-haired tough guy known to movie fans as the hotheaded Sonny Corleone of The Godfather and to television audiences as both the dying football player in the classic weeper Brian’s Song and the casino boss in Las Vegas, has died. He was 82.
His manager Matt DelPiano said he died on Wednesday. No cause was given.
“Jimmy was one of the greatest. Not only was he one of the best actors our business has ever seen, he was funny, loyal, caring and beloved,” DelPiano said. “Our relationship was always friendship before business. I will miss him dearly and am proud to have worked with him all these years.”
Rob Reiner, who directed Caan in Misery, tweeted, “I loved working with him. And the only Jew I knew who could calf rope with the best of them.”
A football player at Michigan State University and a practical joker on production sets, James Caan was a grinning, handsome performer with an athlete’s swagger and muscular build. He managed a long career despite drug problems, outbursts of temper and minor brushes with the law.
Caan had been a favorite of Francis Ford Coppola since the 1960s, when Coppola cast him for the lead in Rain People. He was primed for a featured role in The Godfather as Sonny, the No. 1 enforcer and eldest son of Mafia boss Vito Corleone.
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Sonny Corleone, a violent and reckless man who conducted many killings, met his own end in one of the most jarring movie scenes in history. On his way to another job, Corleone stops at a toll booth that he discovers is unnervingly empty of customers. Before he can escape he is cut down by a seemingly endless fusillade of machine-gun fire. For decades after, Cann once said, strangers would approach him on the street and jokingly warn him to stay clear of toll roads.
James Caan bonded with Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall and other cast members and made it a point to get everyone laughing during an otherwise tense production, sometimes dropping his pants and “mooning” a fellow actor or crew member. Despite Francis Ford Coppola’s fears he had made a flop, the 1972 release was an enormous critical and commercial success and brought supporting actor Oscar nominations for Caan, Duvall and Al Pacino.