James Caan, Oscar nominee for ‘The Godfather,’ dies at 82

Lindsey Bahr Ap Film Writer
Thursday, July 7, 2022

James Caan, the curlyhaired tough guy known to movie fans as the hotheaded Sonny Corleone of “The Godfather” and to television audiences as both the dying football player in the classic weeper “Brian’s Song” and the casino boss in “Las Vegas,” has died. He was 82.

His manager Matt DelPiano said he died on Wednesday. No cause was given and Caan’s family, who requests privacy, said that no further details would be released at this time.

Many of his collaborators wrote condolences on Twitter Thursday.

Adam Sandler, who acted with him in “Bulletproof” and “That’s My Boy” wrote that he, “Loved him very much. Always wanted to be like him. So happy I got to know him. Never ever stopped laughing when I was around that man. His movies were best of the best.”

A football player at Michigan State University and a practical joker on production sets, Caan was a grinning, handsome performer with an athlete’s swagger and muscular build. He managed a long career despite drug problems, outbursts of temper and minor brushes with the law.

Caan had been a favorite of Francis Ford Coppola since the 1960s, when Coppola cast him for the lead in “Rain People.” He was primed for a featured role in “The Godfather” as Sonny, the No. 1 enforcer and eldest son of Mafia boss Vito Corleone.

Sonny Corleone, a violent and reckless man who conducted many killings, met his own end in one of the most jarring movie scenes in history. Racing to find his sister’s husband, Corleone stops at a toll booth that he discovers is unnervingly empty of customers. Before he can escape he is cut down by a seemingly endless fusillade of machine-gun fire. For decades after, he once said, strangers would approach him on the street and jokingly warn him to stay clear of toll roads.

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