American actor James Caan has died at the age of 82, according to a July 7 tweet from his family.
Born in the Bronx, New York but raised in Sunnyside, Queens, Caan turned down a life in the family meat shop to pursue acting, according to TV Guide. He enrolled at Hofstra University but was accepted before graduating from the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater in New York City and graduated according to the Walk of Fame. There Caan studied with Sanford Meisner.
Caan began working on TV shows as early as the 1960s, according to his IMDb credits, but he landed a starring role as Sonny Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather in 1972. His character was famously killed at the Jones Beach tollbooth. Caan explained that he wore 147 squibs for the scene, and luckily he clarified what squibs actually were. “[T]The little explosive charges they stick on you to simulate hits,” Caan told The Guardian in 1999. molded brass cases with gunpowder inside and a prophylaxis full of blood sitting on top. When they went off, it felt like I was being slapped all over. If my hand got in front of one, it would have blown a hole in it.” Caan added, “I wouldn’t have done it if there weren’t so many girls on set trying to impress.”
James Caan always had the right change with him at the toll booths
James Caan will be remembered forever for his role in The Godfather. When The Guardian asked if he joked at tollbooths later in life, Caan replied: “I can tell you one thing for sure. I always make sure I have the right change.”
Caan was certainly the right cast for the reckless Corleone son, not least because of his iconic portrayal of Sonny, but also because his own life was eventful. When he wasn’t gambling, he watched rodeos, boxing, and had a black belt in karate. Caan has been married four times, according to The Guardian, and once lived at the Playboy Mansion for a while to heal his broken heart. “There were a lot of girls over there and well I’m sorry but I liked them!” he said.
James Caan overcame personal struggles
James Caan took a break from acting, spurred by bouts of substance abuse and depression, according to The New York Times; his sister died of leukemia, and grief also kept him away from Hollywood. However, he told the news source in 2004, “I’ve never missed a day of work in my life because of all this junk, not a day, and I’m proud of that.”
According to The Guardian, Caan entered rehab in 1994. He famously told the outlet: “Let me tell you something. When I commit to something, it’s like beating the world champion.” Our condolences go out to all of Caan’s family.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration website or contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Fans are heartbroken over James Caan
James Caan’s impact on Hollywood was evident from the overwhelming fan tributes following the actor’s death. “This one hurts. He had an onscreen presence that made you root for him even when he was playing the villain,” one fan tweeted. Another wrote, “If you can claim Sonny Corleone, Brian Piccolo and Jonathan E. on your movie resume, you are a legend!”
Fans were also quick to discover that the Bronx native, who has starred in films like ‘Misery’ and ‘Elf,’ had become very active on Twitter in recent years. “RIP James Caan, one of Future’s biggest fans,” wrote HuffPost editor Phillip Lewis. Along with the tweet, Lewis shared a screenshot from Caan’s Twitter account, in which the actor suggested Future should be on hip-hop Mount Rushmore. Caan’s tweet has been retweeted over 2,000 times and currently has more than 14,000 likes. Caan was no stranger to the social media platform, as he has been dubbed “America’s Twitter grandpa” by some. Caan used his Twitter account to share old photos, promote recent interviews, and of course, join trending conversations. He even admitted the death of “Goodfellas” star Ray Liotta. Caan tweeted “Not Ray” alongside a heartbroken emoji.
The legendary actor was so immersed in the Twitter sphere that some believed his account was being run by a member of his team. However, Caan quickly cleared up that misconception, stressing that he is behind every message that comes from his verified account. “No one speaks for me,” wrote Caan. “End of tweet.”