James Caan, The Godfather and Elf Acting Legend, Dead at 82

·4 min read

James Caan has died. He was 82 years old.

A tweet from the actor's official account Thursday read, "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 tweet added.

A cause of death was not made immediately available.

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A titan in the film industry, Caan's movie and TV career stretches back over 60 years, with some of his most notable roles being in The Godfather (1972), Misery (1990) and Elf (2003).

Other notable roles throughout his career include in films like Brian's Song (1971), Cinderella Liberty (1973), The Gambler (1974), Rollerball (1975), Dick Tracy (1990), Bottle Rocket (1996) and Eraser (1996).

Actor James Caan attends Humane Society of The United States' annual To The Rescue! Los Angeles benefit at Paramount Studios on April 22, 2017 in Hollywood, California.
Actor James Caan attends Humane Society of The United States' annual To The Rescue! Los Angeles benefit at Paramount Studios on April 22, 2017 in Hollywood, California.

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic James Caan

Caan was also known for appearances on television — perhaps most notably for starring as Ed Deline in the dramedy series Las Vegas, which ran for five seasons on NBC from 2003 to 2008.

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Among Caan's numerous accolades are four Golden Globe nominations, along with nods from both the Academy Awards and the Emmy Awards. He was also honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1978.

According to IMDb, Caan's final film role will be in 2023's Fast Charlie. The action-crime-thriller is listed as in post-production, and costars Morena Baccarin and Pierce Brosnan.

James Caan publicity portrait for the film 'The Rain People', 1969.
James Caan publicity portrait for the film 'The Rain People', 1969.

Warner Brothers-Seven Arts/Getty James Caan

The actor recently opened up about the lasting legacy of The Godfather — in which he played Vito Corleone's (Marlon Brando) oldest son, Sonny — for the beloved crime epic's 50th anniversary.

"When Michael [Al Pacino] tells me he is going to take care of the cop and Sollozzo [Al Lettieri], I say, 'You'll get brains all over your nice Ivy League suit,' " Caan told The Hollywood Reporter in March.

"There was a scene before in the same room that I had with Bobby [Duvall] that was like 10 pages long — and Francis [Ford Coppola] cut all of it out!" he added.

His anger at Coppola, 83, aside, "Otherwise, he gave me a great honor," Caan said with a laugh of the film's director and co-writer.

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 15: James Caan as Santino 'Sonny' Corleone in 'The Godfather, ' the movie based on the novel by Mario Puzo and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Initial theatrical release on March 15, 1972.
LOS ANGELES - MARCH 15: James Caan as Santino 'Sonny' Corleone in 'The Godfather, ' the movie based on the novel by Mario Puzo and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Initial theatrical release on March 15, 1972.

CBS via Getty James Caan in The Godfather (1972)

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Caan spoke with The Independent about his career in 2021, saying he "was always cast as Mister Tough Guy or Mister Hero. ... They wouldn't let me do much else."

He also said he was itching "to do some really good character stuff" before he died, explaining, "Henry Fonda always said he wanted to do a good picture before he passed away. He was never satisfied. I mean, I thought he did a couple of great pictures, you know?"

"But now I get what he meant," Caan continued. "I really want to work. I taught an acting class for a couple of years here, which was fun and rewarding, but it's not as much fun as doing it. I just want the opportunity, while I'm still walking, to do something that will have you calling me and saying, 'Jimmy, that was really good.' "

"If you know any directors, tell 'em I'm ready," he added.

Kathy Bates watches over James Caan in a scene from the film 'Misery', 1990.
Kathy Bates watches over James Caan in a scene from the film 'Misery', 1990.

Columbia Pictures/Getty Kathy Bates and James Caan in Misery (1990)

Caan was previously married four times: first to Dee Jay Mattis, from 1961 to 1966, then to Sheila Ryan in 1976.

He later married Ingrid Hajek in 1990. The two divorced in 1995, and he wed Linda Stokes later that year.

The actor filed for divorce from Stokes in 2005, but the two later reconciled. Caan and Stokes were in the middle of a divorce as of December 2016, according to TMZ.

Caan is survived by sons Scott, James, Jacob and Alexander, as well as daughter Tara.

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