Los Angeles: In a year when the world is celebrating the golden jubilee of ‘The Godfather’, James Caan, one of the film’s many actors who’ll never be forgotten, passed away on Wednesday (U.S. Pacific Time), according to an announcement by his family on Twitter.
Best remembered for playing Sonny Corleone, the hotheaded, loose-fisted son of the Don, played by Marlon Brando, but with a very busy post-Sonny filmography, Caan was 82 when he breathed his last.
“It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Jimmy on the evening of July 6,” the brief tweet reads, according to ‘Variety’. “The family appreciates the outpouring of love and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”
Caan also had substantial roles in other notable films, including ‘Misery’, ‘Elf’, ‘Thief’, ‘Godfather Part II’, ‘Brian’s Song’ and ‘The Gambler’, notes ‘Variety’, adding that Sonny’s violent end in a vendetta killing in Francis Ford Coppola’s iconic movie — “riddled, as he is, with dozens of bullets — is one of the most memorable scenes in a film filled with them”.
Caan, according to ‘Variety’, initially auditioned for the role of Michael, the college-educated war-hero son who would ultimately become Don, and the studio, Paramount, supported this casting for a time, but Al Pacino, as we all know, was cast as Michael and Caan as Sonny “as part of a complex compromise between Paramount and Coppola”.
Coppola and Caan, incidentally, were classmates at Hofstra University, where the Bronx-born James Edmund Caan went after studying at Michigan State University (he played American football for the university team).
Caan, who was working till 2013 and even lent his voice to ‘The Godfather’ video games, would repeatedly essay characters with a penchant for violence, notes ‘Variety’. His most notable decade, though, was the 1970s.
In addition to ‘The Godfather’, to quote from ‘Variety’, Caan’s signature films from the 1970s include Mark Rydell’s ‘Cinderella Liberty’ (1973), in which he played a sailor in love with a hooker; Karel Reisz’s ‘The Gambler’ (1974), where he played a man with a serious addiction for the roll of the dice; the Sam Peckinpah actioner, ‘The Killer Elite’ (1975), a story of CIA assassins that reunited him with Robert Duvall, Tom Fagan of ‘The Godfather’; musical romantic comedy ‘Funny Lady’ (also 1975), with Barbra Streisand and Omar Sharif; Norman Jewison’s satirical, dystopian sci-fi drama ‘Rollerball’, where he played a popular athlete in a violent sport based on roller derby often ending in death; Alan J. Pakula’s romantic Western, ‘Comes a Horseman’, in which Caan starred with Jane Fonda and Jason Robards; and the Neil Simon-penned ‘Chapter Two’, in which a seemingly uncomfortable Caan was essentially a stand-in for Simon in the story of how he got together with second wife Marsha Mason, playing in the film by none other than Marsha Mason.