Hollywood star James Caan, who played ‘Sonny’ Corleone in The Godfather and starred in Misery and Elf, dies aged 82

Hollywood actor James Caan, who starred as mobster Santino “Sonny” Corleone in the Oscar-winning film The Godfather, has died aged 82.

Warning: This article contains video graphics that may disturb some readers.

His family announced in a statement on Twitter that he passed away on Wednesday evening.

“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 said, posted on Caan’s official Twitter account.

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Caan’s manager, Matt DelPiano, confirmed the news.

“Jimmy was one of the best. Not only was he one of the best actors our company has ever seen, he was funny, loyal, caring and loved,” DelPiano wrote.

“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.”

While Caan had previous roles that saw his star rise, it was his portrayal of the abusive son of mobster Don Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando, that would become the one he was most synonymous with.

James Caan standing in a black suit as character Sonny in The Godfather, standing next to Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, John Cazale.
James Caan (left) portrayed Sonny Corleone, the song of mobster patriarch Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) in the famous 1972 film.AP: Paramount Pictures

Having previously starred in the Francis Ford Coppola film The Rain People in 1969, Caan was cast as Sonny in Ford Coppola’s 1972 film adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather.

Caan’s role in the film is remembered for several scenes, but perhaps most notably one in which he mercilessly beats his brother-in-law Carlo in a street scene, and Sonny’s death scene, where he is riddled with bullets at a toll booth.

His performance in the classic film, which won Best Picture at the 1972 Academy Awards, saw him perform opposite Brando, Al Pacino (Michael Corleone), and Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen).

All were nominated for Oscars, but only Brando won and won Best Actor.

The other three failed to take home the Best Supporting Actor award, which was won by Joel Gray for his performance in Cabaret.

Known for his party lifestyle, Caan abruptly retired from his acting career in the early 80s before returning to the limelight at the end of the decade.

In the 1990s, Caan made a comeback, starring For the Boys (1991), as another mobster in Honeymoon in Vegas (1992) and alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Eraser (1996).

In Elf (2003), a well-known Christmas film starring Will Ferrell, Caan played Ferrell’s fictional father.

Director Jon Favreau later praised Ferrell and Caan’s relationship as integral to the film’s success.

Caan has never stopped making movies, with one of his last roles in a movie that is in post-production for 2023.

He has been married four times and last filed for divorce in 2017.

Caan has 5 children, one of whom also pursued an acting career. Scott Caan starred in Hawaii Five-0, Entourage and Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen.

Celebrities pay tribute to ‘legend’

Tributes from celebrities have begun to pour in, including Misery director Rob Reiner, who wrote that he was “joyful to work with” the charismatic actor.

“I’m sorry to hear the news. I loved working with him. And the only Jew I knew who could calve rope with the best of them. Love for the family.’

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Friend and fellow actor Gary Sinise expressed his sadness at the news, writing on social media that he was “heartbroken for his family and friends” and that it was “wonderful to know him and call him a friend”.

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Actor Cary Elwes shared his condolences to Caan’s family.

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Caan starred in the hit animated movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs in 2009 and its sequel in 2013.

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ABC/Reuters

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