In James Gray’s cult film The Yards (2000) James Caan was compelling as a proud patriarch whose corrupt way of running New York’s subway yards led to humiliation and tragedy.
When I interviewed the great cinematographer Harris Savides, he spoke about using a “focused, dark kind of light reflected in the death of a man’s dreams ... as his whole world falls apart, everything he built, even his family”. Caan’s display of this unravelling was nuanced and devastating.
Like cinemagoers everywhere, I was struck by James Caan’s portrayal of Sonny Corleone in The Godfather. But 18 years later came a quite different sort of performance in Misery (1990). There he played a successful novelist who, injured in a car accident, is held against his will by an obsessed fan (Kathy Bates). In eventually getting the better of his captor he showed shrewdness and great emotional awareness.