Wednesday, July 1, 2009

RIP James Caan

James Edmund Caan

Born: March 26, 1940
The Bronx, New York, U.S.

Died: July 1, 2009
Los Angeles, California, U.S.

Other name(s) Jimmy Caan

Occupation Actor

Years active 1961 – 2009
Spouse(s) Dee Jay Mattis (1960-1966)
Sheila Ryan (1976-1977)
Ingrid Hajek (1990-1995)
Linda Stokes (1995-2009)

James Edmund Caan (born March 26, 1940) was an American actor. He was best-known for his role of Santino 'Sonny' Corleone in 1972's The Godfather, Paul Sheldon in Stephen King's Misery, 'Big' Ed Deline in Las Vegas and for his role as Will Ferrell's father in Elf. Caan was the father of Scott Caan.


James Caan passed away this morning after succumbing to the fumes of an insect extermination fumigation unit (also known as a “bug bomb”). A source close to the family, who asked to remain anonymous, stated that the tragedy occurred after Caan knocked himself unconscious soon after the device was set off. The source indicated that Caan turned the fumigator on, and then attempted to run out of his house, when he slipped on a freshly waxed floor and landed on the floor head first. His wife had left earlier in the morning to attend to personal business, resulting in Caan being left unattended. When his wife returned later that afternoon, she found him on the floor without a pulse. She called 911, and after HAZMAT teams removed Caan from his residence, he was pronounced dead by the medical examiner.

Early life

Caan was born in The Bronx, New York, the son of Sophie and Arthur Caan, Jewish refugees from Germany.[1][2] Caan grew up in Sunnyside, Queens.[1] He was educated at P.S. 150 40-01 43rd Avenue School in Queens, New York City, at the private Rhodes Preparatory School, also in New York City, and then attended Michigan State University in East Lansing, studying economics. Caan played college football at the University, and later transferred to Hofstra University in Hempstead, but he did not graduate. However, while studying at Hofstra University, he became intrigued by acting and was interviewed, accepted and graduated from New York City's Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, where one of his instructors was Sanford Meisner. His father was a meat dealer.

Early career

Caan began acting in television on such series as The Untouchables, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Combat!, Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, Get Smart, The Wide Country, Alcoa Premiere, Route 66, and Naked City. In 1964, he starred as Jewish athlete Jeff Brubaker in the episode "My Son, the All-American" of ABC's drama about college life, Channing, starring Jason Evers and Henry Jones.

His first substantial film role was as a villainous punk in the 1964 thriller Lady in a Cage, which starred Olivia de Havilland. In 1965 he got his first starring role in Howard Hawks auto-racing drama Red Line 7000. In 1967, Caan appeared in El Dorado with John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. He had a starring role in Robert Altman's second feature film, Countdown, in 1968. He first won praise for his role as a brain-damaged football player in The Rain People (1969) directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

1970 to present

In 1970, Caan won more acclaim as dying football player Brian Piccolo in the television movie Brian's Song, which was later released in theaters. The following year, Coppola cast Caan as mobster Sonny Corleone in The Godfather, which also helped launch Al Pacino's career. Caan was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the film.

It was around this time that Caan began his infamous friendship with the Underboss of the Colombo crime family, Carmine "Junior" Persico. Caan would eventually be photographed by U.S. law enforcement in surveillance pictures along with Persico. However, because the The Godfather had not come out yet, the authorities mistook him for another rising mobster in the Colombo crime family, which Persico is the Boss of today.

From 1971 to 1982, Caan appeared in many Hollywood films. He played a wide variety of roles. His films include T.R. Baskin, Cinderella Liberty, Rollerball, a musical turn in Funny Lady, Harry And Walter Go To New York, A Bridge Too Far, Comes A Horseman and Chapter Two (a play converted into a screenplay by Neil Simon). In 1980, Caan directed Hide In Plain Sight, a film about a father searching for his children lost in the Witness Protection Program. Despite critical praise, the film was not a hit with the public. The following year, Caan appeared in the neo-noir movie Thief, directed by Michael Mann, in which he played a professional safe cracker. Caan has often said it is the role of which he is proudest next to The Godfather.

From 1982 to 1987, Caan suffered from depression over his sister's death, a growing problem with cocaine, and what he described as "Hollywood burnout," and did not act in any films. He returned to film in 1987 when Coppola cast him as an army platoon sergeant for the "Old Guard" in Gardens of Stone, a film that dealt with the effect of the Vietnam War on the United States homefront. In 1988 and 1990, Caan starred in the films Alien Nation, Dick Tracy and Misery (co-star Kathy Bates won a Best Actress Oscar). In 1992, Caan appeared in Honeymoon in Vegas. In 1993, he played Coach Winters in The Program alongside Halle Berry.

In 1996, he appeared in Bottle Rocket and pursued Arnold Schwarzenegger in Eraser and later starred as kingpin Frank Colton in Bulletproof with Adam Sandler and Damon Wayans. In 1999, Caan portrayed Philip Marlowe in the HBO film Poodle Springs. Some of his most recent appearances have been in Mickey Blue Eyes (1999), The Way of the Gun (2000),The Yards (2000), City of Ghosts (2002), Night at the Golden Eagle (2002), Dogville (2003), and Elf (2003). In 2003, he auditioned and won the role of the head security officer 'Big Ed' Deline in Las Vegas. On February 27, 2007, Caan announced that he would not return to Las Vegas for the show's fifth season in order to return to film work. That same year, he was replaced by Tom Selleck.

He played the President of the United States in the 2008 film Get Smart.

Personal life

Caan has been married four times. In 1960, he married Dee Jay Mathis/Mattis; they divorced in 1966. They had one child Tara A. Caan (born November 5, 1964). His second marriage to Sheila Ryan, former girlfriend of music legend Elvis Presley, in 1976 was short-lived: they divorced the following year. His son, Scott Caan, was born August 23, 1976.

From September 1990 to March 1995, Caan was married to Ingrid Hajek; they also had one child, Alexander James Caan (born April 10, 1991). He married Linda Stokes in October 1996, and they have two children, James Arthur Caan (born November 6, 1995) and Jacob Nicholas Caan (born September 24, 1998).

Caan was a practicing martial artist. He had trained with karate master Tak Kubota for nearly thirty years, earning various ranks.[3] He trained the Culver City Police department in martial arts use.[1]

Caan was an avid golfer with an 8 handicap. He was acting assistant golf coach to PGA professional and good friend Greg Osbourne at Glendale Community College in Southern California. He played in the LPGA pro-am event in Aventura FL on April 23-25, 2008.