James Caan, 'The Godfather' and 'Elf' Actor, Dies at 82

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James Caan, the Oscar and Emmy-nominated actor known for his roles in The Godfather,Misery, Brian’s Song, EraserElf and more, has died. He was 82.

The actor's verified Twitter account released a statement on Thursday, which reads, "It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Jimmy on the evening of July 6. The family appreciates the outpouring of love and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time."

The son of Jewish-German immigrants, Caan was born in the Bronx, New York, on March 26, 1940. Over the course of 60 years, Caan's career crossed TV, film, and theater, but it wasn’t until college that he was officially bitten by the acting bug. 

Caan’s focus was initially football. He attended Michigan State University before transferring to Hofstra University, where his classmates included director Francis Ford Coppola. While at Hofstra, Caan fell in love with acting and dropped out of the university to enroll at New York City's Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre.

His career began in off-Broadway productions before making it to Broadway in Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole. Caan’s first TV appearance was on Naked City, which led to multiple small roles on the likes of Route 66, The Untouchables, The Doctors and the NursesDeath Valley Days and Dr. Kildare

In 1963, Caan made his film debut in the romantic comedy Irma la Douce. A year later, Caan landed his breakout role in the thriller Lady in a Cage, and supporting roles on The Alfred Hitchcock HourWagon Train and The Glory Guys. His first starring film role was in 1965’s Red Line 7000.

Caan’s many memorable performances included playing a brain-damaged football player in 1969’s The Rain People, directed by Coppola. Two years later, Caan earned his first and only Emmy nomination for his leading role in the highly acclaimed TV film Brian’s Song. In 1972, Caan teamed up again with Coppola when he co-starred in The Godfather, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.   

Caan's other acting credits in both film and TV include Slither, Cinderella Liberty, The Gambler, Freebie and the Bean, and Funny Lady. 

Despite appearing in several hit films, Caan never reached the status of a major movie star, which may have been by choice. He notably turned down leading roles in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The French Connection, Superman, Love Story, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Kramer vs. Kramer, and Star Wars.

During the early 1980s, Caan endured personal and professional obstacles that resulted in a self-imposed four-year exile from Hollywood. At the time, Caan was battling depression brought on by the death of his sister from leukemia, and a growing cocaine addiction, coupled with a bad experience filming the 1982 film Kiss Me Goodbye. Caan returned to acting in Coppola's 1987 Army film Gardens of Stone. He followed up with the box-office success of Alien Nation, and supporting roles in Dick Tracy and Misery.

Caan also appeared in The Dark BackwardsFor the Boys, Honeymoon in VegasThe Program,A Boy Called Hate, Bottle Rocket,Eraser, Bulletproof, and Mickey Blue Eyes. His career hit somewhat of a resurgence with the holiday favorite Elf and the animated movie Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, both of which introduced him to younger audiences. 

Caan made another return to series television with the character Ed Deline on NBC’s Las Vegas. He left the show after four seasons, and co-starred with his son, Scott, on the CBS cop drama Hawaii Five-Obefore landing on the Starz drama Magic City, which was canceled in 2013 after two seasons. 

Toward the latter part of his career, Caan became a regular on the series Back in the Game, along with racking up film appearances in A Fighting Man, The Outsider,Preggoland, The Wrong Boyfriend, The Good Neighbor, Undercover Grandpa,Out of Blue and more. 

Caan married four times. His first marriage was to actress Dee Jay Mattis from 1961 until 1966. Caan shares a daughter, Tara, with Mattis. He went on to marry actress Sheila Ryan in 1976. Although the union only lasted a year, they welcomed their son, Scott, in the summer of 1976. Caan’s third marriage was to Ingrid Hajek, whom he married in 1990. The pair had a son, Alex, prior to splitting in 1994. The following year, Caan married actress and costume designer Linda Stokes, with whom he had two more sons, James and Jacob. The couple divorced in 2009. 

Caan is survived by five children and four grandchildren. 


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