When you think of The Godfather’s crew of heavy-hitting Corleones, you think of Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. You might think of brief but bright career of John Cazale. But you’ll certainly remember James Caan. Caan was hot off an Emmy nomination for his work in the 1971 TV movie Brian’s Song, and his Oscar-nominated performance as Sonny would solidify him as a Hollywood star—setting him up for a six-decade screen career. After winning hearts in productions big and small, as a sizzling charismatic leading man or a crackling supporter, Caan has died at age 82.
Caan died last night, July 6, as confirmed by his immensely entertaining Twitter account, which used his idiosyncratic and endearing sign-off in the announcement:
“It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Jimmy on the evening of July 6,” the tweet reads, “The family appreciates the outpouring of love and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.” Then it concludes with the valediction that helped make Caan’s social media presence so great: “End of tweet.”
Aside from his buzzy turn in Godfather, Caan proved himself more than capable of carrying a movie almost all on his own. The Gambler and Misery were two of his best, only bested by Michael Mann’s impeccable Thief.
Like many tough-guy stars of his era, his late period saw a smattering of comic supporting roles that played off his raw, gruff power—Elf wouldn’t be the same without him. He also led films for directors as notable as Sam Peckinpah, Norman Jewison, Alan J. Pakula, Richard Attenborough and Robert Altman.
But his most frequent collaborator would be Francis Ford Coppola, with whom he would work on his final production: The filmmaker’s long-awaited Megalopolis. Caan’s career will have come full circle as Coppola’s latest epic comes to the big screen.