Actor James Caan, star of ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Brian’s Song,’ dies at 82, family says - world cultures

Actor James Caan, star of ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Brian’s Song,’ dies at 82, family says

James Caan, the curly-haired tough guy known to movie fans as the hot-headed Sonny Corleone from The Godfather and to TV audiences as the dying football player in Weeper’s classic “Brian’s Song” and casino boss in “Las Vegas” is dead. He was 82 .

His manager Matt Delbano said he died on Wednesday. No reason was given.

“Jamie was one of the greats. Not only was he one of the best actors our business has ever seen, he was fun, loyal, caring and likable.” Our relationship has always been friendship before work. I will miss him very much and I am proud to have worked with him all these years.”

A Michigan State University football player and practical clown on production sets, the New York, Bronx-born was a handsome, smiling performer with athletic bravado and muscular build. He’s managed a long career despite drug problems, mood outbursts, and minor deceptions with the law.

He has been a favorite of Francis Ford Coppola since the 1960s, when Coppola chose him for the lead in Rain People. He was primed for a feature role in “The Godfather” as Sonny, the #1 enforcer and the eldest son of mafia boss Vito Corleone.

James Can

This photo released by Paramount Pictures, from left, shows James Caan as Sonny Corleone, Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone, Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, and John Casale as Fredo Corleone from the 1972 movie The Godfather. Caan died , whose roles also included Brian’s Song and Misery, Wednesday, July 6, 2022 at the age of 82 (Paramount Pictures via AP)AP

Sonny Corleone, a violent and reckless man who has done many killings, met his end in one of the most exciting movie scenes in history. He once said, for decades after that, strangers would approach him on the street and jokingly warn him to stay off the toll roads.

Despite Coppola’s fears that it might fail, the 1972 release was a massive critical and commercial success and brought Oscar nominations for Supporting Actor for Cannes, Duvall, and Al Pacino.

He was already a star on television, appearing in the 1971 TV movie “Brian’s Song,” a sentimental drama about the Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo, who had died of cancer the previous year at the age of 26.

After “Brian’s Song” and “The Godfather”, he was one of Hollywood’s busiest actors, appearing in “Hide in Plain Sight” (which he also directed), Funny Lady (opposite Barbra Streisand), “The Killer Elite” and Neil Simon “Chapter Two”, among others. He also appeared briefly in the flashback sequence in “The Godfather, Part Two”.

But by the early ’80s he started to bother with movies. He had begun to struggle with substance abuse and was devastated by the death of his sister Barbara, who had, until then, been a guiding force in his career.

He returned to full stardom opposite Kathy Bates in “Misery” in 1990.

Back in demand, Kahn starred in “For the Boys” with Bette Midler in 1991 as part of the entertaining song and dance ensemble for American soldiers during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The following year, he played the tongue-in-cheek version of Sonny Corleone in the comedy “Honeymoon in Vegas”.

Other subsequent films included “Flesh and Bones”, “Bottle Rocket” and “Mickey Blue Eyes”. He introduced himself to a new generation playing Walter, the workaholic, stone-faced father of Buddy Will Ferrell in “Elf”.

Married and divorced four times, he has a daughter, Tara, and sons Scott, Alexander, James and Jacob.

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