James Caan death: The Godfather, Misery and Elf actor dies, aged 82

Actor played Sonny Corleone in the 1972 gangster classic

Official 'Elf' trailer
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Hollywood actor James Caan has died, aged 82.

The news was announced by his family via the New York-born star’s official Twitter page.

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

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

Caan’s credits include The Godfather (1972), Stephen King adaptation Misery (1990) and Christmas film Elf (2003).

His Hollywood career began in the 1960s, following roles in films from directors Howard Hawks (El Dorado, 1966), Robert Altman (Countdown, 1967) and Francis Ford Coppola (The Rain People, 1969).

In the 1970s, Coppola cast him as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather, which led to an Oscar nomination. Caan returned for a brief appearance in the 1974 sequel.

While the actor was initially cast as Michael Corleone, he had his heart set on Sonny and successfully suggested that Al Pacino play the role of Michael instead. He eventually faced his co-star alongside another Godfather actor, Robert Duvall, in the Best Supporting Actor category at the 1973 Oscars; all three lost to Joel Grey, who won for Cabaret.

Caan told The Independent in January 2021: “I really do wish I had an Academy Award. But listen, here’s what you gotta know. Number one: anybody who gets cancer [in a movie] automatically wins the Academy Award that year. Number two: I sound like I’m bitter, and I am!”

James Caan as Sonny Corleone in ‘The Godfather’

In 1971, Caan appeared in TV movie Brian’s Song, a biopic in which he played the dying footballer Brian Piccolo. He earned an Emmy nomination for the role, which he turned down four times before accepting.

Despite having many famous roles, Caan notably turned down many films that became huge hits. These included The French Connection (1971), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and Kramer vs Kramer (1979), which he branded “middle class bourgeois baloney”.

He also rejected the chance to work with Coppola on Apocalypse Now (1979) as he “didn’t want to spend 16 weeks in the Philippine jungles”. Caan was set to collaborate with Coppola once again on the director’s forthcoming passion project Megalopolis, which is being filmed later this year.

James Caan has died, aged 82

The actor’s earlier credits include The Gambler (1974), Rollerball (1975), A Bridge Too Far (1977) and the early Michael Mann film Thief (1982). In 1996 he starred in the Wes Anderson film Bottle Rocket, and also featured in films starring Arnold Schwarenegger (Eraser) and Adam Sandler (Bulletproof).

Caan was married four times, and had five children, including actor Scott Caan.

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