Hollywood pays tribute to James Caan’s ‘venturesome spirit’ following his death

·7-min read

Top film-makers including Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Mann and Rob Reiner have paid tribute to the “wildly gifted” James Caan and his “venturesome spirit”.

The Oscar-nominated actor, known for his roles in The Godfather, Thief and Misery died on Wednesday aged 82.

A statement on Twitter said: “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.”

Caan played Sonny Corleone in Coppola’s 1972 gangster epic alongside acting royalty Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton.

Coppola, who had worked with Caan on The Rain People before The Godfather, said in a statement provided to the PA news agency: “Jimmy was someone who stretched through my life longer and closer than any motion picture figure I’ve ever known.

“From those earlier times working together on The Rain People and throughout all the milestones of my life, his films and the many great roles he played will never be forgotten.

“He will always be my old friend from Sunnyside, my collaborator and one of the funniest people I’ve ever known.”

4th Annual Benefit Gala for Adopt-a-Minefield
The Oscar-nominated actor, known for his roles in The Godfather, Thief, Misery and many others, died on Wednesday (PA)

Pacino, who starred as Michael Corleone in the classic films, said that Caan was his “fictional brother and lifelong friend.”

He said: “It’s hard to believe that he won’t be in the world anymore because he was so alive and daring. A great actor, a brilliant director and my dear friend. I’m gonna miss him.”

Meanwhile, De Niro added he was “very very sad to hear about Jimmy’s passing”.

Shire, who played Connie Corleone in the crime saga films, said in a statement given to the PA news agency: “James was a good man, a kind man, a family man, and a wildly gifted man – whose great talent will always be loved and remembered.

“My prayers are with his family that he treasured so dearly.”

Similarly, star of The Godfather III film Joe Mantegna tweeted: “One of the great gifts in being part of The Godfather family was becoming friends with James Caan. Rest In Peace Jimmy.”

Mann, who directed 1981 neo-noir heist thriller Thief, described Caan’s death as a “terrible and tragic loss”.

“Jimmy was not just a great actor with total commitment and a venturesome spirit, but he had a vitality in the core of his being that drove everything from his art and friendship to athletics and very good times,” he said in a statement.

“There was a core of values within him about how people should be, more or less.

“It might be variable, the corners could be rounded with urban irony, but there was a line and it was non-fungible.

“And it produced many outrageous and hilarious anecdotes.”

Reiner, who directed 1990 psychological thriller Misery, said he was “so sorry” to hear the news.

“I loved working with (Caan),” he wrote.

“And the only Jew I knew who could calf rope with the best of them. Love to the family.”

Caan Wahlberg The Yards 1
The actor’s death was met with an outpouring of grief from those in the entertainment industry (Toby Melville/PA)

The veteran actor’s other notable credits include playing terminal cancer-stricken Chicago Bears footballer Brian Piccolo in sporting drama Brian’s Song, which saw him earn an Emmy nomination for outstanding single performance by an actor in a leading role in 1972.

Caan also starred in 2003 family comedy Elf, playing Will Ferrell’s on-screen biological father Walter Hobbs, as well as psychological thriller Misery, action film Thief, and crime hit The Gambler.

Other appearances include Honeymoon In Vegas, Bulletproof and Mickey Blue Eyes.

British film-maker Edgar Wright tweeted: “RIP to a genuine megawatt movie star, Mr Jimmy Caan, star of not just The Godfather, but also Thief, Misery, Freebie And The Bean, Slither, Rollerball, Bottle Rocket, Gardens Of Stone, The Way Of The Gun, Honeymoon In Vegas, Elf & many more.”

Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn said: “There are so many movies of his I love, The Godfather films of course being at the very top, but here are a few more I adore (Thief in particular was a Gunn family classic – I had the poster on my wall in high school).”

Caan’s Brian’s Song co-star and Star Wars actor Billy Dee Williams led tributes to the actor on Thursday, sharing a picture on Twitter of Caan smiling while perched on his lap.

He wrote: “Team Mates and friends till the end. RIP Jimmy,” with a broken-heart emoji.

Actor Gary Sinise, who starred as Lieutenant Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump, tweeted: “Very sad to hear the news that James Caan has died. Heartbroken for his family & his friends.

“Wonderful to know him & call him a pal. Jimmy was so supportive of Gary Sinise Foundation & my work w/ our veterans. He will be missed. Thank you my friend. Rest In Peace. God bless you.”

Singer Barbra Streisand, who co-starred in 1975 film Funny Lady with Caan, tweeted that he was “so talented”, Grosse Pointe Blank star John Cusack simply wrote “wonderful actor”, while Antonio Banderas said: “A great actor has left us.”

Sharon Stone, who starred with Caan in 1981 historical drama Les Uns Et Les Autres, shared a photo of the pair on Instagram, writing: “My second acting job was #JamesCaan. He was so much fun. From that moment on he always had my back. Jimmy, I treasure every second. Go with God.”

Comedian and actor Adam Sandler, who acted with him in Bulletproof and That’s My Boy, said he “always wanted to be like him”.

He wrote: “So happy I got to know him. Never ever stopped laughing when I was around that man. His movies were best of the best. We all will miss him terribly. Thinking of his family and sending my love.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger, best-known for his role in action film The Terminator, said that Caan was an “icon” and a “legend”.

He tweeted: “He inspired everyone who has ever been in front of a camera. I was lucky to work with him and see his talent and his fantastic sense of humor firsthand.

“He was a great training partner in the gym and a true friend, and I’ll miss him.”

Caan was born in March 1940 in the Bronx in New York and initially fancied a career in American football before becoming interested in acting during his time at university.

His break-out role came in The Godfather, which also saw him nominated for best supporting actor at the Golden Globes.

The actor was married four times – to Dee Jay Mattis, Sheila Ryan, Ingrid Hajek and most recently Linda Stokes.

He is survived by his five children – Tara, Scott, Alexander James, James Arthur and Jacob Nicholas Caan.

Scott followed in his father’s footsteps, appearing in Ocean’s Eleven, Gone In 60 Seconds and the Hawaii Five-0 reboot.

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