James Caan, best known for playing Sonny Corleone in The Godfather, dies at 82

Published on Jul 07, 2022 11:42 PM IST

American actor James Caan, best known for playing Sonny Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, has died at the age of 82.

James Caan in a still from The Godfather, for which he earned an Academy Award nomination.
James Caan in a still from The Godfather, for which he earned an Academy Award nomination.

American actor James Caan, best known for playing Sonny Corleone in The Godfather, has died at the age of 82, his manager said Thursday. The veteran actor, who also appeared in films like Misery, Thief, and Rollerball, was an Oscar nominee. He received the nomination in 1973 for his portrayal of Sonny in the Francis Ford Coppola film. Also read: The Godfather, Chinatown producer Robert Evans dies at 89

"It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Jimmy on the evening of July 6," his family said in a tweet posted to James Caan's account. “The family appreciates the outpouring of love and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time,” the tweet read further. The actor's manager later confirmed the development to news agency AFP.

James Caan was born in 1940 to a butcher. He developed an interest in acting during his stint at the Hofstra University, where he met his future collaborator Francis Ford Coppola. He started his career in the early 60s with theatre, followed by bit parts in TV shows and films. In 1965, he appeared in his first leading role in the racing film El Dorado. But his real claim to fame was seven years later as the hot-headed Sonny in The Godfather. The role is regarded as his best and most memorable performance. The film itself is regarded as one of the greatest ever made. It starred Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, and Robert Duvall.

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone (left) and James Caan as Sonny Corleone (right) in a scene from The Godfather. (Paramount Pictures via AP)(AP)
Al Pacino as Michael Corleone (left) and James Caan as Sonny Corleone (right) in a scene from The Godfather. (Paramount Pictures via AP)(AP)

Following the film's success, James then went on to work in a number of high-profile films in the 1970s and 80s, such as A Bridge Too Far, The Gambler, Thief, and Misery. His final screen appearance was in the 2021 romantic comedy Queen Bees, which also starred Ellen Burstyn.

The actor married four times. His first marriage to Dee Jay Mathis in 1961 lasted five years. He was then briefly married to Sheila Marie Ryan from 1975-76. In 1990, he married Ingrid Hajek but they divorced in 1994. His final marriage, to Linda Stokes in 1995, lasted 22 years. He had five children, one of whom, Scott Caan, followed him into acting.

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