James Caan, Oscar-nominated actor of ‘The Godfather’, ‘Misery’ and ‘Eleven’, dies aged 82

James Caan, the veteran film actor known for his work in such films as the godfatherTrouble and elf, has passed away, his family said in a statement on his verified Twitter account. He was 82.

“It is with great sadness that we inform you on the evening of July 6 of Jimmy’s passing,” the statement read.

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

James Kan.
James Caan as Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather”. (Paramount Pictures)

They did not disclose a cause of death.

Caan first found fame playing Chicago Bears halfback Brian Piccolo in Brian’s songa popular TV movie from 1971.

The tear-jerking film chronicled Piccolo’s real-life battle with terminal cancer and was praised for its handling of the interracial friendship between Piccolo and a black teammate, Gale Sayers.

His next film, from 1972 the godfathermade Kaan a star.

Although not Italian, Caan was cast as hot-headed Sonny Corleone, the eldest of three sons of mobster Vito Corleone, who is memorably shot by rival mobsters in an ambush at a toll booth.

In an interview in 2021 for CBS Sunday morningCaan said he based Sonny’s persona on the late comedian Don Rickles.

“It wasn’t imitating Don Rickles. It was having that drive, that thing, you know? I was just locked in there,” he said of his performance.

Caan, whose roles include ‘The Godfather’, ‘Brians Song’ and ‘Misery’, died on July 6, 2022 at the age of 82. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
James Caan, left, and his wife Linda Stokes. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, (left) and James Caan as Sonny Corleone (right) in a scene from "the godfather"†
Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, (left) and James Caan as Sonny Corleone (right) in a scene from “The Godfather”. (Paramount Pictures)

The role earned him an Oscar nomination.

Caan also appeared in a flashback in The Godfather, Part II

The curly-haired actor was known for playing tough characters in movies like Thief and rollerball

But he was a versatile actor who also radiated vulnerability in films like Troublethe 1990 Stephen King adaptation about a mild-mannered novelist held captive by an obsessive fan.

He is probably best known to younger audiences for his role in 2003 elfthe Christmas story in which he played Will Ferrell’s Scrooge-esque father, a workaholic children’s book publisher who is unhappy to learn that he has an abnormally cheerful adult son who wears an elf costume and pours maple syrup on his spaghetti.

A wreath on the Hollywood Walk of Fame star of the late actor James Caan. (AP)

It wasn’t a cuddly role, but Caan, who played the straight man to Ferrell’s lavish mankind, brought a welcome dash of cynicism—and lots of squeezed looks of annoyance—that tempered the film’s sweetness.

In the same CBS interview, Caan said he almost got the… elf role over the film’s title alone, but Ferrell convinced him to join the project.

Caan was born in 1940 in the Bronx borough of New York City to Jewish immigrants. His father was a butcher.

He played football at Michigan State and later began studying acting as a student at Hofstra University, where one of his classmates was Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola.

Scott Caan, right, writer/producer/star of the movie ‘Mercy’, poses with his father, fellow cast member James Caan. (AP)

After starring in a few plays on and off Broadway, Caan moved to Los Angeles in the early 1960s to pursue a film career.

Coppola gave him one of his first roles, as a hobo in the 1969 drama The Rain People

Caan’s other memorable films were the Howard Hawks Western El DoradoJames Toback’s the gambler and A bridge too far (1977), Richard Attenborough’s World War II Ensemble.

Later in his career, he appeared on TV in the drama Las Vegas and in the reboot Hawaii five-0 series, along with his son Scott Caan.

More recently, actor Damian Conrad-Davis Caan starred in The offerthe Paramount+ miniseries from 2022 about the making of the godfather

Entertainers in Hollywood and beyond paid tribute to Caan on Thursday.

James Caan in the movie ‘Thief’ in 1981. (Delivered)

“James Caan. 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. We will miss him terribly. Thinking of his family and sending my love,” said Adam Sandler, who worked with Caan on the 2012 film comedy that’s my boy

“Losing Ray Liotta and James Caan within months of each other just tells me God up there is making a great gangster movie,” tweeted comedian Johnny Taylor Jr.

“Very sad to hear the news that James Caan has passed away. Heartbroken for his family and friends. Great to know him and call him a friend,” actor Gary Sinise said on Twitter.

“Jimmy was so supportive of the Gary Sinise Foundation and my work with our veterans. He will be missed. Thank you, my friend. Rest in peace. God bless you.”

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