He had played one of the Corleone sons in the mythical “Godfather”, and a sequestered writer in the distressing “Misery”: the American actor James Caan died at 82 after a long career where he played for the most great directors.
“It is with great sadness that we inform you of Jimmy’s passing on the evening of (Wednesday) July 6th,” his family said in a tweet posted on Caan’s account. His manager, Matt DelPiano, confirmed the news to AFP.
It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Jimmy on the evening of July 6.
The family appreciates the outpouring of love and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.
End of tweet
—James Caan (@James_Caan) July 7, 2022
Eldest son of “don” Vito Corleone in “The Godfather”
Born in New York, in the Bronx district, in 1940, into a family of Jewish immigrants from Germany, James Caan had started his career with small roles in Hollywood in the 1960s, notably in “Irma La Douce » by Billy Wilder (1963), or « People in the rain », by Francis Ford Coppola (1969).
Three years later, the great American director will give him one of his most famous roles, in the first part of the trilogy “The Godfather”, epic saga on the Italian-American mafia which marked the history of cinema and celebrated its 50th anniversary this year.
James Caan plays Sonny Corleone, the eldest son of “don” Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), and his brutal assassination in a hail of bullets at a toll booth has become one of the film’s most defining moments. The role earned him an Oscar nomination.
Tribute to Francis Ford Coppola
“I still think if I had the change that day, I could have become much richer,” he joked years later, referring to his death at the toll while waiting for his change. “If I had known they were going to shoot” The Godfather 2 “(in which he had a small role for a flashback), I would have refused to die”, he had quipped, judging that this film had been a “blessing” for him.
“Jimmy was someone who was part of my life longer and more closely than any other cinema figure I have ever known,” reacted Francis Ford Coppola, welcoming in a statement to AFP his “old friend and “one of the funniest people I’ve ever known”.
“The friend of a lifetime”, for Pacino, De Niro “very very sad”
“Jimmy was my fictional brother and lifelong friend. It’s hard to imagine that he is no longer of this world, he was so full of life and audacity, “said Al Pacino, who played the role of Michael Corleone, Sonny’s little brother. .
Robert De Niro, who also starred in the “Godfather” saga, said he was “very, very sad to learn of Jimmy’s death”.
As an echo of this role in “The Godfather”, James Caan had been summoned for the first time as a witness in 1985 at a mafia trial in New York, because he had known one of the defendants, a member of the Colombo family. , in his childhood. Then, he testified, still in New York, in 1992 in another trial, where he presented himself as the best friend of a reputable member of the Bonanno mafia family still in the dock.
Films that have become classics
After “The Godfather”, his career continued with roles in other films that remained classics, such as “Rollerball” (1975), named after this violent sport practiced in a futuristic society, or “The Solitaire” ( 1981) by Michael Mann.
One of his other major roles was offered to him in “Misery” (1990), a grueling behind closed doors film, adapted from Stephen King’s novel. He masterfully embodies the writer Paul Sheldon, kidnapped in the mountains of Colorado by an evil fan played by Kathy Bates.
“His movies were the best of the best,” New York actor and screenwriter Adam Sandler tweeted. ” I loved him so much. I always wanted to be like him. I am so happy to have known him. I never stopped laughing when I was with this man,” he added.
James Caan. 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. We all will miss him terribly. Thinking of his family and sending my love. pic.twitter.com/a0q8rCP1Yl
— Adam Sandler (@AdamSandler) July 7, 2022