Obituary: James Caan, the indelible actor with a thrilling performance as Sonny Corleone in ‘The Godfather’

James Caan, who has passed away aged 82, was an actor whose personality was a compelling blend of ferocity and recklessness that made him unforgettable as sassy Sonny Corleone in the Mafia epic. Francis Ford Coppola The Godfather (1972), a role he played. nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

Godfather made Caan a possible star (“the toughest man in the movies”, as he was described). He reprized the role for flashback scenes in the sequel Godfather: Part II (1974).

Caan brought intensity to the traits born of his training as a methodical actor. When he was researching for the role of the master bandit in Michael Mann’s Thief (1981), he got along with real crooks and learned from them in blowing out safes. Because Rollerball (1975), about an extremely violent sport of the future, he got back in shape by training in chariot races, suffering several injuries in the process.

But there are too many poor career options. He rejected parts in Kramer vs Kramer (“Boredom and bourgeois,” he said), Doomsday right now, Superman and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. His performance in other films of that decade – among them Trimmer, The Killer Elite, Harry and Walter arrive in New York and A bridge too far – on the whole quickly forgotten.

At the same time, he was also known for being difficult and capricious. He walked out of the set Holcroft Covenant (1985) and was replaced by Michael Caine. He also has a big feud with his producers about a movie he starred in and directed, Hidden in Plain Sight (1980), which he wanted to do without music.

In the early 1980s, he embarked on an act of self-destruction. After two failed marriages, in 1982, he quit the acting world – due to a scandal over his cocaine use, and devastated by the death of his sister and manager, Barbara, from leukemia. in 1981.

Titles such as ‘Caan entered drug clinic’, ‘Caan accused of beating model’, ‘Caan shocked by falling into death’, ‘Caan released on Mafia bail’ and ‘Caan struggles make money’ tells a lewd story. For a time, he lived at the Playboy Mansion. In the late 1980s, the American soldier owed $247,000 and had no money to pay.

Then, in 1990, he played a novelist held hostage by an obsessed fan in the screen version of Stephen King. Miserabledelivered a powerful performance that brought him back to the mainstream.

Since then, he has worked more or less non-stop, alternating small-budget companies like Rocket bottle (1996) and This is my father (1998) with major studio works such as Honeymoon in Vegas (with Sarah Jessica Parker, 1992) and Eraser (with Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1997).

From 2003 to 2007, he starred in the American television series Las Vegas as Edward “Big Ed” Deline, the former executive chairman of Montecito Resort & Casino.

However, the role of Sonny Corleone was dark for a long time, especially when Caan set foot in Little Italy in New York. “Once about 15 years ago, they decided to name me Italian of the year,” he recalls in 1999. “They did it again about four or five years ago. And I kept telling them, ‘You don’t understand. I am a Jewish guy from Sunnyside, Queens. ‘”

One of three children, James Edmund Caan, was born on March 26, 1940, in the Bronx, New York, to Jewish parents who emigrated from Germany and grew up in Sunnyside. James trained in New York City and caught the acting bug, earning a place at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of theatre, a center for a “methodical” approach to acting.

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Caan worked off-Broadway, and appeared in television series such as Route 66, Railway wagons and Dr. Kildare. Then after a minor uncredited role in Irma la Douce (1963), he made his film debut as a punk who terrorized Olivia de Havilland in Lady in a Cage (In 1964).

Howard Hawks invited him in Red line 7000 (1965), and El Dorado (1967) opposite John Wayne. In 1971, he earned an Emmy Award nomination for his portrayal of an American football player with cancer in the film Brian’s song (1971), before putting my name in Godfather.

Caan didn’t kick his cocaine habit until the early 1990s, when his 15-year-old son Scott showed up in a drug deal to get his father home. Caan recalls: “If there was one thing that straightened me out, it was right there and then.

James Caan has been married and divorced four times: first to Dee Jay Mathis, with whom he has a daughter; the second is Sheila Marie Ryan, with whom he has a son, actor Scott Caan; the third is Ingrid Hajek, with whom he has another son, and the fourth is Linda Stokes, a costume designer with whom he has two more sons.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Obituary: James Caan, the indelible actor with a thrilling performance as Sonny Corleone in ‘The Godfather’

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