American actor James Caan, known for his role as a mafia son in the first part of the illustrious film trilogy The Godfather, passed away yesterday at the age of 82. His family asks in a message on Twitter, in which they announce the death of the actor, to respect their privacy.
Caan played in The Godfather the role of Sonny Corleone, the eldest of four children of mob boss Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando. The first two parts of the trilogy were received with great acclaim in the 1970s: the first part received eleven Oscar nominations, one of which was for Caan himself for his supporting role as Sonny. The crime epic won three: best picture, best actor (Brando) and best screenplay based on another medium. Half a century later, the film is still acclaimed by movie buffs.
Although Caan had initially auditioned for the role of Michael Corleone, Vito’s youngest son who takes over the family empire, director and screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola assigned him the role of Sonny. With this role Caan broke through with the general public.
The family announced the actor’s death on Twitter:
When the film premiered in 1972, Caan was 32 years old. He was born in 1940 in New York’s The Bronx, the son of a butcher of German-Jewish descent, and grew up in Queens. As a university student, in the early 1960s, he met Francis Ford Coppola, the man who wrote the book a few years later The Godfather from writer Mario Puzo into the script for the film of the same name.
He did not finish his university studies. Instead, Caan wanted to pursue his great passion: acting. He started in a neighborhood theater school in New York, getting his first acting job in 1961: a supporting role in a Broadway show. A few more small roles followed, until his breakthrough in 1965 with his leading role in the car racing film Red Line 7000†
In 1969, Caan first collaborated with Coppola in the film The Rain Peopleabout the love between characters Natalie Ravenna (Shirley Knight) and Jimmy ‘Killer’ Kilgannon (James Caan) who meet on a road trip.
Watch the trailer for The Godfather below:
After his successes in the 1970s, Caan’s career came to a standstill, partly due to excessive drug use. He did not appear in any film or television production between 1983 and 1987, until he made a comeback in the late 1980s with his role in the war film Gardens of Stonealso from director Coppola.
In the years that followed, Caan played all kinds of roles, large and small, on the big screen and on television. He had the lead role in the television series Las Vegas (2003-2008), which was also broadcast in the Netherlands.
He continued to work with his great passion until his death. His latest project would again be a film by Coppola: the long-awaited project megalopolisin which Caan would play alongside star actor Adam Driver.
In a recent interview with de Volkskrant, Caan couldn’t say much about megalopolis except that it’s “something really big, really really big”. He himself will no longer play in it; the film won’t be shown until the end of this year. For enthusiasts who still want to see the actor shine: at the beginning of this year an anniversary edition of The Godfather released to commemorate the film’s 50th anniversary.