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James Caan (actor)

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James Caan (actor)

For the British entrepreneur, see James Caan (entrepreneur).
James Caan
File:James Caan - Rollerball - 1977.jpg
in Rollerball (1975)
Born James Edmund Caan[1]
(1940-03-26) March 26, 1940 (age 74)
The Bronx, New York City, U.S.
Other names
  • Jimmy Caan
  • Jimmy Cahn
Education Rhodes Preparatory School
Alma mater
Occupation Actor
Years active 1961–present
  • Dee Jay Mattis (1960–1966; divorced; 1 child)
  • Sheila Marie Ryan (1976–1977; divorced; 1 child - Scott Caan)
  • Ingrid Hajek (1990–1995; divorced; 1 child)
  • Linda Stokes (1995–2009; 2 children; filed for divorce)

James Edmund Caan (born March 26, 1940) is an American actor. He is best known for his starring roles in The Godfather, Thief, Misery, A Bridge Too Far, Brian's Song, Rollerball, Kiss Me Goodbye, Elf, and El Dorado. He also starred as "Big Ed" Deline in the television series Las Vegas. He is currently cast as Terry "The Cannon" Gannon, Sr. in the ABC sitcom Back in the Game.

Early life

Caan was born in The Bronx, New York City, the son of Sophie (née Falkenstein) and Arthur Caan, Jewish immigrants from Germany.[2] His father was a meat dealer and butcher.[3][4] One of three siblings,[5][6] Caan grew up in Sunnyside, Queens, New York City.[2] He was educated in New York City, and later attended Michigan State University. He later transferred to Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, but did not graduate.

While studying at Hofstra University, however, he became intrigued by acting and was interviewed for, accepted to, and graduated from, New York City's Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre. There, one of his instructors was Sanford Meisner.[4] He studied at the school for five years.



Caan began appearing on off-Broadway before making his Broadway debut with Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole.[7]

He began appearing in such television series as The Untouchables, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Combat!, Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, The Wide Country, Alcoa Premiere, Route 66, and Naked City. For example, in "The Hunt" on episode 9, season 1 for Suspense Theater, he was the young surfer being hunted by the sadistic sheriff played by Mickey Rooney.

In 1964, he starred as Jewish athlete Jeff Brubaker in the episode "My Son, the All-American" of Channing, a drama about college life.

His first substantial film role was as a punk hoodlum in the 1964 thriller Lady in a Cage, which starred Olivia de Havilland.[4] In 1965, he landed his first starring role, in Howard Hawks' auto-racing drama Red Line 7000.[8]

In 1966, Caan appeared as Alan Bourdillion Traherne, aka Mississippi, in El Dorado, with John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. He had a starring role in Robert Altman's second feature film, Countdown, in 1968.

In 1969, his appearance on the spy sitcom Get Smart was uncredited, billed as "Rupert of Rathskeller as Himself"; in that same year he won praise for his role as a brain-damaged football player in The Rain People (1969) directed by Francis Ford Coppola.


In 1971, Caan won more acclaim, as dying football player Brian Piccolo, opposite Billy Dee Williams, in the television movie Brian's Song,[4] which was later released theatrically.

The following year, Coppola cast him as the short-tempered Sonny Corleone in The Godfather. Originally, Caan was cast as Michael Corleone (Sonny's youngest brother); both Coppola and Caan demanded that this role be played by Al Pacino, so Caan could play Sonny instead. Although another actor was already signed to play Sonny,[9] the studio insisted on having Caan, so he remained in the production. Caan was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the film, competing with co-stars Robert Duvall and Pacino.[4] Caan was closely identified with the role for years afterward: "They called me a wiseguy. I won Italian of the Year twice in New York, and I'm not Italian.... I was denied in a country club once. Oh yeah, the guy sat in front of the board, and he says, 'No, no, he's a wiseguy, been downtown. He's a made guy.' I thought, What? Are you out of your mind?"[10]

From 1971 to 1982, Caan appeared in many films, playing a wide variety of roles. His films included T.R. Baskin, Cinderella Liberty, Freebie and the Bean, The Godfather Part II, Rollerball, a musical turn in Funny Lady, Harry And Walter Go To New York, A Bridge Too Far, Comes A Horseman, and Neil Simon's autobiographical Chapter Two.

In 1980, Caan directed Hide in Plain Sight, a film about a father searching for his children, who were lost in the Witness Protection Program.[4] Despite critical praise, the film was not a hit with the public.

The following year, Caan appeared in the neo-noir movie Thief, directed by Michael Mann, in which he played a professional safe cracker.[4]

Caan rejected a series of starring roles that proved to be successes for other actors, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Kramer vs. Kramer, Apocalypse Now, Blade Runner, and Superman.[11][12]


From 1982 to 1987, Caan suffered from depression over his sister's death from leukemia, a growing problem with cocaine, and what he described as "Hollywood burnout," and did not act in any films.[4] He walked off the set of The Holcroft Covenant and was replaced by Michael Caine.[13]


He returned to acting in 1987, when Coppola cast him as an army platoon sergeant for the "Old Guard" in Gardens of Stone, a film that dealt with the effect of the Vietnam War on the United States homefront.[14] In 1988 and 1990, Caan starred in the films Alien Nation, Dick Tracy, and Misery, a hit film that marked a comeback for Caan.[4] Since the script for Misery called for Caan's character, Paul Sheldon, to spend most of his time lying in bed, the role was turned down by many of Hollywood's leading actors before Caan accepted.

In 1992, Caan appeared in Honeymoon in Vegas, and in 1993, he played Coach Winters in The Program, alongside Halle Berry. In 1996, he appeared in Bottle Rocket, and with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Eraser, and later starred as kingpin Frank Colton in Bulletproof with Adam Sandler and Damon Wayans. In 1998, Caan portrayed Philip Marlowe in the HBO film Poodle Springs.

Some of his more recent appearances have been in Mickey Blue Eyes (1999), The Way of the Gun (2000), The Yards (2000),[4] City of Ghosts (2002), Night at the Golden Eagle (2002), Dogville (2003), and Elf (2003).

Las Vegas

In 2003, Caan auditioned for and won the role of Montecito Hotel/Casino president "Big Ed" Deline in Las Vegas.[13]

On February 27, 2007, Caan announced that he would not return to the show for its fifth season in order to return to film work; he was replaced by Tom Selleck.

Recent years

Caan played the President of the United States in the 2008 film Get Smart, and had a part in the movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs as the voice of the father of the lead character, Flint.

In 2012, Caan was a guest-star on the re-imagined Hawaii Five-0, playing opposite his son, Scott Caan who plays Danny "Danno" Williams. As of 2010 Caan is Chairman of an Internet company, Openfilm, intended to help upcoming filmmakers.[15]

Other work

Caan is a practicing martial artist. He has trained with Takayuki Kubota for nearly thirty years, earning various ranks.[16] He is a Master (Rank = 6 Dan) of Gosoku Ryu Karate and was granted the title of Soke Dai by the International Karate Association. Caan trained the Culver City Police Department in martial arts use.[2]

Personal life

Caan has been married four times. In 1960, he married Dee Jay Mathis; they divorced in 1966. They had a daughter, Tara A. Caan, born 1964. Caan's second marriage to Sheila Marie Ryan (a former girlfriend of Elvis Presley) in 1976 was short-lived; they divorced the following year. Their son, Scott Caan, who also is an actor, was born August 23, 1976.

Caan was married to Ingrid Hajek from September 1990 to March 1995; they had a son, Alexander James Caan, born 1991. He married the widow of alleged murdered Aspen Drug kingpin Steven Grabow,[17] Linda Stokes in October 1996; they have two sons, James Arthur Caan (born 1995) and Jacob Nicholas Caan (born 1998). Caan filed for divorce on November 20, 2009, citing irreconcilable differences.

Caan describes his political views as "ultra conservative". He has described himself as anti-liberal.[18]

In 1994 he was arrested after being accused by a Los Angeles rap artist that Caan pulled a gun on him.[19]

According to Fortune magazine's profile of Barry Minkow, during the production of the biopic based on the investor's life James Caan socialized with Minkow and was made aware by him that the financing of the film involved illegally obtained funds. However, nothing suggests Caan had any involvement with any illegalities.[20]


In 1977, Caan rated several of his movies out of ten - The Godfather (10), Freebie and the Bean (4), Cinderella Liberty (8), The Gambler (8), Funny Lady (9), Rollerball (8), The Killer Elite (5), ''Harry and Walter Go to New York (0), Slither (4), A Bridge Too Far (7), Another Man Another Chance (10) and Kiss Me Goodbye (0). [21] He also liked his performances in The Rain People and Thief.[22]


Title Year Role Notes
Irma la Douce 1963 Soldier with radio (uncredited)
Combat! 1964 Sgt. Beckman
Lady in a Cage 1964 Randall Simpson O'Connell
The Glory Guys 1965 Pvt. Anthony Dugan
Red Line 7000 1965 Mike
El Dorado 1966 Alan Bourdillion Traherne ('Mississippi')
Games 1967 Paul Montgomery
Submarine X-1 1968 Cmdr. Richard Bolton, RNVR
Countdown 1968 Lee Stegler
Journey to Shiloh 1968 Buck Burnett
The Rain People 1969 Jimmy Kilgannon (Killer)
Rabbit, Run 1970 Rabbit Angstrom
T.R. Baskin 1971 Larry Moore
Brian's Song 1971 Brian Piccolo Nominated – Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor – Miniseries or a Movie
The Godfather 1972 Santino 'Sonny' Corleone Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Slither 1973 Dick Kanipsia
Cinderella Liberty 1973 John Baggs Jr.
The Gambler 1974 Axel Freed Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
The Godfather: Part II 1974 Sonny Corleone
Freebie and the Bean 1974 Freebie
Funny Lady 1975 Billy Rose Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Rollerball 1975 Jonathan E. Saturn Award for Best Actor tied with Don Johnson for A Boy and His Dog
Gone with the West 1975 Jud McGraw
The Killer Elite 1975 Mike Locken
Harry and Walter Go to New York 1976 Harry Dighby
Silent Movie 1976 Himself
A Bridge Too Far 1977 Sgt. Eddie Dohun
Un autre homme, une autre chance 1977 David Williams aka Another Man, Another Chance
Comes a Horseman 1978 Frank 'Buck' Athearn
1941 1979 Sailor in fight (uncredited)
Chapter Two 1979 George Schneider
Hide in Plain Sight 1980 Thomas Hacklin Also directed
Thief 1981 Frank
Les Uns et les Autres 1981 Jack Glenn/Jason Glenn aka Dance of Life
Kiss Me Goodbye 1982 Jolly Villano
Gardens of Stone 1987 SFC. Clell Hazard
Alien Nation 1988 Det. Sgt. Matthew Sykes
Dick Tracy 1990 Spaldoni
Misery 1990 Paul Sheldon Nominated – Saturn Award for Best Actor
The Dark Backward 1991 Doctor Scurvy
For the Boys 1991 Eddie Sparks
Honeymoon in Vegas 1992 Tommy Korman
The Program 1993 Sam Winters
Flesh and Bone 1993 Roy Sweeney
The Program 1994 Coach Sam Winters
A Boy Called Hate 1995 Jim
North Star 1996 Sean McLennon
Bottle Rocket 1996 Mr. Henry
Eraser 1996 U.S. Marshal Robert Deguerin
Bulletproof 1996 Frank Colton
This Is My Father 1998 Kieran Johnson
Mickey Blue Eyes 1999 Frank Vitale
The Yards 2000 Frank Olchin
Luckytown 2000 Charlie Doyles
The Way of the Gun 2000 Joe Sarno
Warden of Red Rock 2001 John Flinders
Viva Las Nowhere 2001 Roy Baker
A Glimpse of Hell 2001 Capt. Fred Moosally
In the Shadows 2001 Lance Huston
Night at the Golden Eagle 2002 Prison Warden (uncredited)
City of Ghosts 2002 Marvin
Blood Crime 2002 Sheriff Morgan McKenna
Jericho Mansions 2003 Leonard Grey
Dogville 2003 The Big Man
This Thing of Ours 2003 Jimmy 'the con'
Elf 2003 Walter Hobbs
Las Vegas 2003-2008 Ed Deline
Santa's Slay 2005 Darren Mason (uncredited)
Wisegal 2008 Salvatore Palmeri
Get Smart 2008 The President
Mercy 2009 Gerry Ryan
Something, Something, Something, Darkside 2009 Himself
New York, I Love You 2009 Mr. Riccoli (segment "Brett Ratner")
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2009 Tim Lockwood (Flint's father) (voice)
Middle Men 2010 Jerry Haggerty
Henry's Crime 2010 Max
Minkow 2010 Paul Vinsant
The Annoying Orange 2010 Jalepeño (voice, web-based series)
Detachment 2011 Mr. Seaboldt
Small Apartments 2012 Mr. Allspice
Sweetwater 2012 Ned Irish (pre-production)
That's My Boy 2012 Father McNally
Hawaii Five-0 2012 Tony Archer Season 2 Episode 18 "Lekio" (Radio)
Blood Ties 2013 Completed
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 2013 Tim Lockwood (Flint's father) (voice)
The Outsider 2013 Schuuster post-production
Anyone's Son 2013 John Hanna


External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • AllRovi
  • interview
  • Anything Oz or New Zealand Films site

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