While millions mourn the tragic death of James Cann, many remember him for his iconic role as a gangster. Caan became legendary as Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather” alongside Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and Robert Duvall. Caan was so good at playing a gangster that some people accused him of being in the mafia.
In a 2004 interview with Vanity Fair (via New York Times), Caan said, “I’ve been accused so many times … I’ve won ‘Italian of the Year’ twice in New York, and I’m not Italian.” According to The Times, the in Queens-born actor Jew, but has earned his reputation as a “bad boy” after being married and divorced four times, and because he clashed with police and testified on behalf of one of his friends, Queens.
The cast of The Godfather was closely intertwined with its gangster characters
In 2011, the New York Post reported that James Caan’s old friend Andrew Russo was accused of being part of a Brooklyn mafia gang. The two were so close that Russo was the actual godfather to the actor’s son, Scott. Caan showed his loyalty by telling the Post, “My friendship with Andrew Russo dates back over 35 years and I only know him as as good a friend as anyone can be to me and my family.”
The Godfather crew, along with Goodfellas actors Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci and Paul Sorvino, are among the most iconic gangster characters in modern film history. That’s why Caan’s tweet after the death of his girlfriend Liotta is now even more heartbreaking.
James Caan spoke for fans after Ray Liotta passed away
James Caan’s simple message after Ray Liotta’s death disappointed fans and spoke for millions. On May 26, Caan tweeted “Not Ray” with a heartbroken emoji. Following news of The Godfather star’s death, some returned to Caan’s tweet to pay tribute. A fan tweeted a broken heart emoji with the message “Not you.” Noting the void Caan and Liotta’s deaths left, another fan tweeted, “It’s like god putting together the greatest mob movie.”
While the ‘Thief’ star played plenty of tough roles, the spate of stories and tributes about the 82-year-old actor shows just how popular he was in the Hollywood community. The tough guy seemed to have a big heart and people loved him for it. Actor Gary Sinise commented, “Jimmy has been so supportive of the Gary Sinise Foundation and my work with our veterans.” Comedian Andy Richter also tweeted, “They say never meet your heroes but he does [Caan] proved that very wrong.”
Caan’s “Las Vegas” co-star Josh Duhamel isn’t known for being a sensitive guy, but the actor posted an emotional video after learning of Caan’s death. He took to his Instagram story on July 7 with a tearful Duhamel caption (via Hollywood Life): “One of the nicest, coolest, funniest people I’ve ever met.” He added, “One of my mentors. You are missed Jimmy Caan. I love you.” Aside from his co-stars and industry friends, those who knew the Godfather actor best reflect the depth of Caan’s legacy.
James Caan prioritized his family
James Caan has starred in some iconic films, but off-screen, The Washington Post reported on the actor’s many hobbies, including karate and ox-roping. James joked, “I was the only Jewish cowboy from New York on the professional rodeo cowboy circuit.” But in a 2011 interview with the Los Angeles Times, the “Godfather” star and his son Scott Caan showed where the heart is of the famous actor beats. Explaining that acting wasn’t his father’s priority, Scott said, “Not that he didn’t love it, but his family was more important.” Summarizing the importance of family to the outlet, the elder Cann said, “Best advice I give young actors… what comes first is my family and friends. No matter what heights you reach in this business, what is inevitable is that there is a slide backwards in every single case.”
The “Brian’s Song” star noted that actors who do anything are “self-harming people.” James added: “I’m not saying you shouldn’t be the best. But when things go bad, he has to have his father, his girlfriend. He must have his brothers.”
The highest praise as a parent is when your children look up to you. In a 2017 interview with The Fall, Scott spoke of his father: “When you’re young you don’t see your dad as a legend, you just know he’s an interesting, colorful, wild cat, and you’re like, ‘ I want to be like that guy.'”