Like so many other prominent actors of the 1970s, the versatile James Caan rose to success on the strength of his riveting performance in #The Godfather. Born March 26, 1939 in the Bronx, NY, Caan decided to pursue a career in acting while attending college, and in 1960 was accepted by Sanford Meisner into the Neighborhood Playhouse. After making his debut off-Broadway in I Roam, he landed in the Broadway production of Mandingo, but exited after just four performances because of artistic difficulties with star Franchot Tone. Caan then landed in television, where he became a busy character actor; he made his film debut in an unbilled performance in 1963's #Irma La Douce, followed by a meatier role in #Lady in a Cage the following year. The 1965 Howard Hawks auto-racing drama #Red Line 7000 was his first starring role, followed two years later by the Hawks Western #El Dorado, which cast him opposite John Wayne and Robert Mitchum; in 1968 Caan starred in Robert Altman's #Countdown, and in 1969 he appeared in Francis Ford Coppola's #The Rain People.

Caan shot to fame thanks to a poignant performance in the 1970 television movie #Brian's Song, in which he played the ill-fated Chicago Bears star Brian Piccolo; his turn as the similarly ill-fated Sonny Corleone in Coppola's 1972 masterpiece #The Godfather solidified his stardom and earned an Academy Award nomination, but his subsequent films, including 1973's #Slither and the next year's #Freebie and the Bean, failed to live up to expectations. After earning a Golden Globe bid for his work in 1974's #The Gambler, Caan briefly appeared in 1974's #The Godfather, Pt. II before co-starring with Barbra Streisand in the hit #Funny Lady, followed by Norman Jewison's futuristic parable #Rollerball. When both 1975's Sam Peckinpah thriller #The Killer Elite and 1976's #Harry and Walter Go to New York met with failure, Caan's career took a downward turn, and apart from cameo appearances in both Mel Brooks' #Silent Movie and the star-studded #A Bridge Too Far, he was largely absent from screens for a time. He also made any number of ill-considered decisions -- he and Coppola were unable to come to terms for #Apocalypse Now, and he also rejected roles in hits including #One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, #Superman, and #Kramer vs. Kramer.

By the end of the decade, Caan's career had hit the skids, as projects including the 1978 Western #Comes a Horseman (co-starring Jane Fonda) and the following year's Neil Simon drama #Chapter Two all failed to live up to expectations. His directorial debut in 1980's #Hide in Plain Sight fared no better, although Michael Mann's thriller #Thief garnered a cult following; when 1982's #Kiss Me Goodbye bombed, Caan disappeared from sight for the next five years, later checking into a rehab clinic to battle a longstanding cocaine addiction. He also made headlines managing a prize fighter, and turned down so many movie offers that soon his phone simply stopped ringing. Finally, in 1987, he resurfaced, starring in Coppola's war drama #Gardens of Stone; the next year's science-fiction picture #Alien Nation was a hit, as was his next major project, Rob Reiner's 1990 feature #Misery. After both 1991's #For the Boys failed to connect with audiences, Caan spent much of the decade in prominent supporting roles which showcased his smart, edgy persona; among the more high-profile were 1992's #Honeymoon in Vegas, 1996's #Eraser, and the wonderful indie hit #Bottle Rocket. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi

Straight talk from James Caan
James Caan on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson - 11/18/1977 - pt. 1
The Tragic Life and Sad Death of James Caan, Remembering James Caan Stra in The Godfather
Acting Legend James Caan Talks ‘The Godfather’ 50th Anniversary with Rich Eisen | Full Interview
The Life and Tragic Ending of James Caan
James Caan: Working w/ Marlon Brando in 'The Godfather' & Longevity in Hollywood
James Caan Discusses Working With Legendary Actor Marlon Brando
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