Actor James Caan, The Godfather’s Sonny Corleone, Dies at 82

James Caan, the actor best known for his role as Sonny Corleone in the first two Godfather movies, passed away at the age of 82.

“It is with great sadness that we inform you on the evening of July 6 of Jimmy’s passing,” said a statement posted on his official Twitter account on Thursday. A cause of death was not given.

“The family appreciates the outpouring of love and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”

The statement concluded with “End of tweet,” a wave Caan often used to finish his tweets.

“Jimmy was one of the greatest. Not only was he one of the best actors our company has ever seen, he was funny, loyal, caring and loved,” Caan’s manager Matt DelPiano said Wednesday. “Our relationship has always been friendship before business. I will miss him very much and am proud to have worked with him all these years.”

Godfather role brought fame, Oscar nods

A soccer player at Michigan State University and a set prankster, Caan was a grinning, handsome performer with the swagger and muscular build of an athlete. He managed to make a long career in spite of drug problems, angry outbursts and minor struggles with the law.

Caan had been a favorite of Francis Ford Coppola since the 1960s, when Coppola cast him in the lead role in Rain people† He was ready for a prominent role in the godfather as Sonny, the No. 1 enforcer and eldest son of mob boss Vito Corleone.

Al Pacino, left, as Michael Corleone, and James Caan as Sonny Corleone in a scene from The Godfather. The role earned Caan an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. (Paramount photos via The Associated Press)

Caan’s Sonny Corleone, a violent and reckless man who committed many murders, met his passing in one of the most shocking movie scenes in history. Corleone races to find his sister’s husband and stops at a toll booth that he discovers is unnervingly empty of customers. Before he can escape, he is knocked down by a seemingly endless gunfire.

Decades after that, Caan once said, strangers would approach him on the street and jokingly warn him to stay away from toll roads.

On set, 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 letting a fellow actor or crew member “mooning.” “.

Despite Coppola’s fears, he had made a flop, the godfatherIts 1972 release was a huge critical and commercial success, earning Oscar nominations for actors for Caan, Robert Duvall, and Al Pacino.

Already a star on television, Caan broke through in the 1971 TV movie Brian’s song, an emotional drama about Chicago Bears that traces back Brian Piccolo, who had died of cancer the year before at the age of 26. It was one of the most popular and heartbreaking TV movies in history. Caan and co-star Billy Dee Williams, who played Piccolo’s teammate and best friend Gale Sayers, were nominated for Best Actor Emmys.

After Brian’s song and the godfatherhe was one of Hollywood’s busiest actors, appearing in Hide in plain sight (which he also directed), Funny Lady (opposite Barbra Streisand), The Killer Elite and that of Neil Simon Chapter Two, among other things. He also made a brief appearance in a flashback sequence in The Godfather, Part II

Sister’s death destroyed star

But by the early 1980s, he had started to sour about movies, even though Michael Mann’s 1981 neo-noir heist film Thiefin which he played a professional safe-cracker looking for a way out is one of his most admired films.

“The fun of it was taken away,” he told an interviewer in 1981. “I’ve taken pictures I’d rather spend time on. I just walked away from a picture at Paramount. I said you don’t have enough money to let me go to work every day with a director I don’t like.”

He began to struggle with drug use and was devastated by the death of his sister Barbara in 1981 from leukemia, which had been a guiding force in his career until then.

James Caan, left, appears with his son, actor Scott Caan, at the Los Angeles premiere of the HBO documentary His Way on March 22, 2011. Caan, who died Wednesday, also leaves behind his daughter Tara and sons Alexander, James and Jacob. (Chris Pizzello/The Associated Press)

For much of the 1980s, he didn’t make movies, telling people that he preferred coaching his son Scott’s Little League games.

With little money, Caan was hired by Coppola to star in the 1987 film Stone Gardens† The film, about life at Arlington National Cemetery, proved too grim for most audiences, but it revamped Caan’s acting career.

Trouble and a return to stardom

He returned to full-fledged stardom opposite Kathy Bates in Trouble in 1990.

In the film, based on Stephen King’s novel, Caan is an author who is captured by an obsessed fan who breaks his ankles to prevent him from leaving. Bates won an Oscar for the role.

Again much in demand, Caan played in For the boys with Bette Midler in 1991 as part of a song-and-dance team that entertained American soldiers during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

The following year, he played an ironic version of Sonny Corleone in the comedy Honeymoon in VegasNicolas Cage into letting his girlfriend, Sarah Jessica Parker, bet in a high stakes poker game so he can chase her away and try to persuade her to marry him.

Other later films included Meat and BonesBottle Rocket and Mickey Blue Eyes† He introduced himself to a new generation as Walter, the workaholic, stone-faced father of Will Ferrell’s Buddy in elf

TV role in the lead role completed a long career

Caan only starred in a TV series in 2003, but his first attempt, Las Vegas, was an instant hit. When the series debuted, he was a casino warden dealing with cheaters and competitors from the fictional Montecito Resort and Casino.

His character grew up to be boss of the Montecito, but remained the tough guy who learned judo in an undercover department of the US government. Caan left the show during the fourth season and it was later canceled.

Born on March 26, 1939 in New York City, Caan was the son of a kosher meat wholesaler.

He was a star athlete and class president at Rhodes High School and, after attending Michigan State and Hofstra University, studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater under Sanford Meisner.

After a brief stage career, he moved to Hollywood, where he made his screen debut in a short uncredited role in 1963’s Billy Wilder’s Irma the sweet one† He then landed a part as the young thug who terrorizes Olivia de Havilland in Lady in a cage

He also appeared opposite John Wayne and Robert Mitchum in the 1966 Western The Golden and Harrison Ford in the 1968 Western Travel to Shiloho

Tributes from fellow actors pour in

Many of his employees wrote their condolences on Twitter on Thursday.

Al Pacino, Caan’s co-star in 1972 the godfatherhas released a statement mourning the late actor.

“Jimmy was my fictional brother and my friend for life. It’s hard to believe he won’t be in the world anymore because he was so vibrant and daring. A great actor, a brilliant director and my dear friend. I’m going to miss it.”

Robert de Niro, who starred in 1974 The Godfather: Part IIwrote, “I’m very, very sad to hear about Jimmy’s passing.”

Barbra Streisand played with Caan . in 1972 Funny Ladythe sequel to 1968 funny girl† “I’m so sorry to hear about Jimmy. He was so talented,” the actress wrote on Twitter.

Michael Mann, who directed Caan in Thiefsaid, “Jimmy was not only a great actor with total dedication and an entrepreneurial spirit, but he had a vitality at the core of his being that drove everything from his art and friendship to athletics and very good times.”

Adam Sandler, who co-starred with Caan in Bulletproof and That’s my boy wrote that he: “Loved him very much. Always wanted to be like him. So glad I got to know him. Never stopped laughing when I was around that man. His movies were the best of the best. “

Rob Reinerwhich Caan directed in Troublefilmmaker Scott Derricksonand actors Michael McKean and Trouble co-star Bates also posted tribute on Twitter.

Married and divorced four times, Caan leaves behind five children: a daughter, Tara, and sons Scott, Alexander, James and Jacob.

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