James Caan

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James Caan
James Caan - 1972.jpg
Caan in 1972
BornJames Edmund Caan[1]
(1940-03-26) March 26, 1940 (age 74)
The Bronx, New York City, U.S.
Other names
  • Jimmy Caan
  • Jimmy Cahn
EducationRhodes Preparatory School
Alma mater
Years active1961–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)
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For other people named James Caan, see James Caan (disambiguation).
James Caan
James Caan - 1972.jpg
Caan in 1972
BornJames Edmund Caan[1]
(1940-03-26) March 26, 1940 (age 74)
The Bronx, New York City, U.S.
Other names
  • Jimmy Caan
  • Jimmy Cahn
EducationRhodes Preparatory School
Alma mater
Years active1961–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, The Gambler, Misery, A Bridge Too Far, Brian's Song, Rollerball, Kiss Me Goodbye, and El Dorado. He also starred as "Big Ed" Deline in the television series Las Vegas. As of 2014 he plays Terry "The Cannon" Gannon, Sr. in the ABC sitcom Back in the Game.

Early life[edit]

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. His classmates at Hofstra included Lainie Kazan and Francis Ford Coppola.

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.

Starring in Submarine X-1 (1969)

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]

Discussing role in A Bridge Too Far in 1976

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,"[citation needed] 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 3rd US Infantry Regiment ("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[edit]

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[edit]

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 the chairman of an Internet company, Openfilm, intended to help upcoming filmmakers.[15]

In 2013, Caan portrayed Chicago mob kingpin Sy Berman in the Starz TV drama Magic City. The series was not renewed for a third season, and Caan's character was apparently killed by "the Butcher" Ben Diamond, his erstwhile protege, portrayed by Danny Huston.

Other work[edit]

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[edit]

Caan has been married four times. In 1960,[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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".[18]

In 1994 he was arrested after being accused by a Los Angeles rap artist of pulling 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]

James Caan has five children and four grandchildren, three from his eldest daughter Tara and one from his son Scott.[21]


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). [22] He also liked his performances in The Rain People and Thief.[23]


Irma la Douce1963Soldier with radio(uncredited)[citation needed]
Combat!1964Sgt. Beckman
Lady in a Cage1964Randall Simpson O'Connell
The Glory Guys1965Pvt. Anthony Dugan
Red Line 70001965Mike
El Dorado1966Alan Bourdillion Traherne ('Mississippi')
Games1967Paul Montgomery
Submarine X-11968Cmdr. Richard Bolton, RNVR
Countdown1968Lee Stegler
Journey to Shiloh1968Buck Burnett
The Rain People1969Jimmy Kilgannon (Killer)
Rabbit, Run1970Rabbit Angstrom
T.R. Baskin1971Larry Moore
Brian's Song1971Brian PiccoloNominated – Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor – Miniseries or a Movie
The Godfather1972Santino 'Sonny' CorleoneNominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Slither1973Dick Kanipsia
Cinderella Liberty1973John Baggs Jr.
The Gambler1974Axel FreedNominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
The Godfather Part II1974Sonny Corleone
Freebie and the Bean1974Freebie
Funny Lady1975Billy RoseNominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Rollerball1975Jonathan E.Saturn Award for Best Actor tied with Don Johnson for A Boy and His Dog
Gone with the West1975Jud McGraw
The Killer Elite1975Mike Locken
Harry and Walter Go to New York1976Harry Dighby
Silent Movie1976Himself
A Bridge Too Far1977Sgt. Eddie Dohun
Un autre homme, une autre chance1977David Williamsaka Another Man, Another Chance
Comes a Horseman1978Frank 'Buck' Athearn
19411979Sailor in fight(uncredited)[citation needed]
Chapter Two1979George Schneider
Hide in Plain Sight1980Thomas HacklinAlso directed
Les Uns et les Autres1981Jack Glenn/Jason Glennaka Dance of Life
Kiss Me Goodbye1982Jolly Villano
Gardens of Stone1987SFC. Clell Hazard
Alien Nation1988Det. Sgt. Matthew Sykes
Dick Tracy1990Spaldoni
Misery1990Paul SheldonNominated – Saturn Award for Best Actor
The Dark Backward1991Doctor Scurvy
For the Boys1991Eddie Sparks
Honeymoon in Vegas1992Tommy Korman
The Program1993Coach Sam Winters
Flesh and Bone1993Roy Sweeney
A Boy Called Hate1995Jim
North Star1996Sean McLennon
Bottle Rocket1996Mr. Henry
Eraser1996U.S. Marshal Robert Deguerin
Bulletproof1996Frank Colton
This Is My Father1998Kieran Johnson
Mickey Blue Eyes1999Frank Vitale
The Yards2000Frank Olchin
Luckytown2000Charlie Doyles
The Way of the Gun2000Joe Sarno
Warden of Red Rock2001John Flinders
Viva Las Nowhere2001Roy Baker
A Glimpse of Hell2001Capt. Fred Moosally
In the Shadows2001Lance Huston
Night at the Golden Eagle2002Prison Warden(uncredited)[citation needed]
City of Ghosts2002Marvin
Blood Crime2002Sheriff Morgan McKenna
Jericho Mansions2003Leonard Grey
Dogville2003The Big Man
This Thing of Ours2003Jimmy 'the con'
Elf2003Walter Hobbs
Las Vegas2003–2008Ed Deline
Santa's Slay2005Darren Mason(uncredited)[citation needed]
Wisegal2008Salvatore Palmeri
Get Smart2008The President
Mercy2009Gerry Ryan
Something, Something, Something, Darkside2009Himself
New York, I Love You2009Mr. Riccoli(segment "Brett Ratner")
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs2009Tim Lockwood (Flint's father)(voice)
Middle Men2010Jerry Haggerty
Henry's Crime2010Max
Minkow2010Paul Vinsant
The Annoying Orange2010Jalepeño(voice, web-based series)
Detachment2011Mr. Seaboldt
Small Apartments2012Mr. Allspice
That's My Boy2012Father McNally
Hawaii Five-02012Tony ArcherSeason 2 Episode 18 "Lekio" (Radio)
Blood Ties2013Leon Pierzynski
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 22013Tim Lockwood (Flint's father)(voice)
Anyone's Son2013John Hanna
Back in the Game2013Terry "The Cannon" Gannon
A Fighting Man2014Brother Albright
The Outsider2014Schuuster


  1. ^ "James Caan". TV Guide. Retrieved June 12, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Model, Betsy. "The Ultimate Caan". Cigar Aficionado. Retrieved December 13, 2006. 
  3. ^ James Caan profile at Film Reference.com
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Stated on Inside the Actors Studio, 2000
  5. ^ "James Caan biography". Notablebiographies.com. Retrieved October 31, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Overview for James Caan". Tcm.com. Retrieved October 31, 2012. 
  7. ^ James Caan: Hollywood's Jock of All Trades Haber, Joyce. Los Angeles Times (1923–Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] May 27, 1973: o11.
  8. ^ Harford, Margaret (September 30, 1965). "Career's the Thing for James Caan". Los Angeles Times. p. A10. 
  9. ^ Maggie Van Ostrand. "‘Leave the Gun. Take the Cannoli,’ and Other Godfather Stories". Film School Rejects. 
  10. ^ Mark Seal. "The Godfather Wars". Vanity Fair. 
  11. ^ "James Caan | Caan Rues The Bad Choices That Prompted Him To Turn Down Movies". Contactmusic.com. September 12, 2005. Retrieved October 31, 2012. 
  12. ^ Bernard Weinraub (November 17, 1991). "James Caan Rises From the Ashes of His Career". The New York Times. p. H13. "It wasn't that I did bad pictures. I just banished myself for a while." 
  13. ^ a b Weinraub, Bernard (May 17, 2004). "James Caan Takes a Gamble 'On Las Vegas,' and Scores". The New York Times. p. E1. 
  14. ^ Siskel, Gene (May 3, 1987). "Film: A star is reborn James Caan acts his way out of a deep slump". Chicago Tribune. p. L6. 
  15. ^ "Website offers filmmakers aid". Variety. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  16. ^ "The History of Karate in America" The American Black Belt Society, Retrieved November 1, 2006
  17. ^ "Echoes linger 20 years after car bombing". Rocky Mountain News. December 8, 2005. Retrieved October 31, 2012. 
  18. ^ "James Caan Refuses to Be the Typical 'Hollywood Liberal'". Fox News. Retrieved October 31, 2012. 
  19. ^ "James Caan Arrested, Released After Alleged Gun Incident". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 28, 2012. 
  20. ^ "Barry Minkow: All-American con man – Fortune Features". Features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com. Retrieved October 31, 2012. 
  21. ^ Scott Caan daughter
  22. ^ Siskel, Gene (November 27, 1977). "James Caan's career hitting tough times". Chicago Tribune. p. e6. 
  23. ^ Siskel, Gene (May 11, 1980). "Movies: James Caan: Frustrated star talks tough about his career Tough talk from a frustrated star". Chicago Tribune. p. d2. 

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