Los Angeles, Jul 7 (EFE).- Actor James Caan, best known for his Oscar-nominated performance as Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather,” has died, his family said Thursday. He was 82.
“It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Jimmy on the evening of July 6,” his loved ones said on the actor’s Twitter account.
“The family appreciates the outpouring of love and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time,” the post concluded.
Born in New York to German-Jewish immigrant parents, James Edmund Caan grew up in Queens and attended Hofstra University, where he developed an interest in acting and forged a friendship with aspiring filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola.
Caan broke into television in 1961 with an appearance in an episode of the series “Naked City” and made his big-screen debut two years later with an uncredited part in “Irma La Douce.”
He had a role alongside John Wayne and Robert Mitchum in “El Dorado” (1967) before being tapped by Coppola for “The Rain People” (1969).
In 1971, Caan won praise for his work in “Brian’s Song,” a television movie about Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer after entering the National Football League.
The film focused on the friendship between Piccolo (Caan) and superstar teammate Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams).
When Coppola was hired to direct “The Godfather,” he had Caan in mind to portray Sonny Corleone, but Paramount wanted Carmine Caridi for that role with Caan as Michael Corleone.
Coppola was adamant, insisting on Caan as Sonny and Al Pacino as Michael.
Caan, Pacino and fellow cast-member Robert Duvall all received nominations for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, but the award went to Joel Grey for “Cabaret.”
Though Caan would go on to deliver memorable performances in films such as “The Gambler” (1974), “Thief” (1981) and “Misery” (1990), he never won an Oscar.
And he famously passed on offers to star in “The French Connection,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Kramer vs. Kramer.”
Those roles earned Best Actor Oscars for Gene Hackman, Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman, respectively.
Caan also rejected the part of Han Solo in “Star Wars” and Captain Willard in Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now.” EFE