The interpreter of Sonny, in The Godfatherdied at the age of 82, announced his manager on Thursday.
He had played one of the Corleone sons in the mythical Godfatherand a writer sequestered in the agonizing Misery: American actor James Caan died at 82 after a long career where he played for the greatest directors. “It is with great sadness that we inform you of Jimmy’s passing on the evening of (Wednesday) July 6.”, his family said in a tweet posted on Caan’s account. His manager, Matt DelPiano, confirmed the news to AFP. Born in New York, in the Bronx district, in 1940, into a family of Jewish immigrants from Germany, James Caan began his career with small roles in Hollywood in the 1960s, notably in Irma the sweet by Billy Wilder (1963), or rain peopleby Francis Ford Coppola (1969).
A “funny, loyal and caring” actor
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, an epic saga about the Italian-American mafia that 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 became one of the film’s most defining moments. The role earned him an Oscar nomination. “I keep thinking that if I had 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 in my life longer and more closely than any other film 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 have ever known”. 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. After The Godfatherhis career continued with roles in other films that remained classics, such as roller ball (1975), from the name of this violent sport practiced in a futuristic society, or The solitary (1981) by Michael Mann.
One of his other big roles is offered to him in Misery (1990), a grueling behind closed doors, 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 films were the best of the best”New York actor and screenwriter Adam Sandler paid tribute to him in a tweet. “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 that man.”, he added. A prolific actor, who had starred in dozens of films over six decades, including The Yards by James Gray (2000), City of Ghosts by Matt Dillon (2002), or who lent his voice in Cloudy with a chance of meatballs (2009), James Caan had been married four times and had five children. “Jimmy was one of the greatest. Not only was he one of the best actors our industry has ever seen, but he was funny, loyal, caring, and loved.”said his manager Matt DelPiano.
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