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James Caan (born March 26, 1940) is an American actor. He is best-known for his role of Santino 'Sonny' Corleone in 1972's The Godfather. He also starred as Paul Sheldon in Stephen King's Misery, 'Big' Ed Deline in the television series Las Vegas, and as Will Ferrell's father in Elf. Caan is the father of actor Scott Caan. Master of 6 Dan Karate Gosoku Ryu, he was granted the title of Soke Dai International Karate Association.

Early life

Caan was born in The Bronxmarker, New York Citymarker, the son of Sophie and Arthur Caan, Jewish refugees from Germanymarker. His father was a meat dealer. Caan grew up in Sunnysidemarker, Queensmarker, New York City. He was educated at P.S. 150 40-01 43rd Avenue School in Queens, at the private Rhodes Preparatory Schoolmarker, also in New York City, and then attended Michigan State Universitymarker in East Lansingmarker, Michiganmarker, studying economics. Caan played college football at the University, and later transferred to Hofstra Universitymarker in Hempsteadmarker, New Yorkmarker, but he did not graduate. However, while studying at Hofstra University, he became intrigued by acting and was interviewed, accepted and graduated from New York Citymarker's Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, where one of his instructors was Sanford Meisner.

Early career

Caan began acting in television on such series as The Untouchables, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Combat!, Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, Get Smart (famously uncredited, the part billed as "Rupert of Rathskeller as Himself"), The Wide Country, Alcoa Premiere, Route 66, and Naked City. In 1964, he starred as Jewish athlete Jeff Brubaker in the episode "My Son, the All-American" of ABC's drama about college life, Channing, starring Jason Evers and Henry Jones.

His first substantial film role was as a villainous punk in the 1964 thriller Lady in a Cage, which starred Olivia de Havilland. In 1965 he landed his first starring role in Howard Hawks' auto-racing drama Red Line 7000. In 1967, Caan appeared in El Dorado with John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. He had a starring role in Robert Altman's second feature film, Countdown, in 1968. He first won praise for his role as a brain-damaged football player in The Rain People (1969) directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

1970 to present

In 1970, Caan won more acclaim as dying football player Brian Piccolo in the television movie Brian's Song, which was later released in theaters. The following year, Coppola cast Caan as mobster Sonny Corleone in The Godfather, which also helped launch Al Pacino's career. Caan was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the film. One star up for the role against Caan was Burt Reynolds. It is naturally speculated that Caan's Italian connections and prior affiliation with Francis Ford Coppola earned him the role as Sonny. Caan appeared in The Rain People, both Godfather films and The Killer Elite with colleague Robert Duvall.

From 1971 to 1982, Caan appeared in many Hollywoodmarker films. He played a wide variety of roles. His films include T.R. Baskin, Cinderella Liberty, Rollerball, a musical turn in Funny Lady, Harry And Walter Go To New York, A Bridge Too Far, Comes A Horseman and Chapter Two (a play converted into a screenplay by Neil Simon). In 1980, Caan directed Hide In Plain Sight, a film about a father searching for his children lost in the Witness Protection Program. 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. Caan has often said it is the role of which he is proudest next to The Godfather.

From 1982 to 1987, Caan suffered from depression over his sister's death, a growing problem with cocaine, and what he described as "Hollywood burnout," and did not act in any films. He returned to film 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. In 1988 and 1990, Caan starred in the films Alien Nation, Dick Tracy, and Misery (co-star Kathy Bates won a Best Actress Oscar), a hit film that marked a comeback for Cann. In 1992, Caan appeared in Honeymoon in Vegas. In 1993, he played Coach Winters in The Program alongside Halle Berry.

In 1996, he appeared in Bottle Rocket and pursued Arnold Schwarzenegger in Eraser and later starred as kingpin Frank Colton in Bulletproof with Adam Sandler and Damon Wayans. In 1999, Caan portrayed Philip Marlowe in the HBO film Poodle Springs. Some of his most recent appearances have been in Mickey Blue Eyes (1999), The Way of the Gun (2000),The Yards (2000), City of Ghosts (2002), Night at the Golden Eagle (2002), Dogville (2003), and Elf (2003). In 2003, he auditioned and won the role of Montecito Hotel/Casino president 'Big Ed' Deline in Las Vegas. On February 27, 2007, Caan announced that he would not return to Las Vegas for the show's fifth season in order to return to film work. That same year, he was replaced by Tom Selleck. He is also close friends with Mark Rimmele, a restaurant owner in the Chicago area , which he frequented regularly. Caan said had the best Italian food he ever tasted.

He 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.

Personal life

Caan has been married four times. In 1960, he married Dee Jay Mathis/Mattis; they divorced in 1966. They had one child Tara A. Caan (born November 5, 1964). His second marriage to Sheila Ryan, former girlfriend of Elvis Presley, in 1976 was short-lived: they divorced the following year. His son, Scott Caan, was born August 23, 1976.

From September 1990 to March 1995, Caan was married to Ingrid Hajek; they also had one child, Alexander James Caan (born April 10, 1991). He married Linda Stokes in October 1996, and they have two children, James Arthur Caan (born November 6, 1995) and Jacob Nicholas Caan (born September 24, 1998). Caan filed for divorce on November 20, 2009, citing irreconcilable differences for the split.

Caan is a practicing martial artist. He has trained with karate master Tak Kubota for nearly thirty years, earning various ranks. He trained the Culver Citymarker Police department in martial arts use.

Caan is an avid golfer with an 8 handicap. He is acting assistant golf coach to PGA professional and good friend Greg Osbourne at Glendale Community College in Southern California. He played in the LPGA pro-am event in Aventura, Florida on April 23–25, 2008.


Year Film Role Notes
1963 Irma la Douce Soldier with radio (uncredited)
1964 Lady in a Cage Randall Simpson O'Connell
1965 The Glory Guys Pvt. Anthony Dugan
Red Line 7000' Mike
1966 El Dorado Alan Bourdillion Traherne ('Mississippi')
1967 Games Paul Montgomery
1968 Submarine X-1 Cmdr. Richard Bolton, RNVR
Countdown Lee Stegler
Journey to Shiloh Buck Burnett
1969 The Rain People Jimmy Kilgannon (Killer)
1970 Rabbit, Run Rabbit Angstrom
1971 T.R. Baskin Larry Moore
Brian's Song Brian Piccolo Nominated — Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor – Miniseries or a Movie
1972 The Godfather Santino 'Sonny' Corleone Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
1973 Slither Dick Kanipsia
Cinderella Liberty John Baggs Jr.
1974 The Gambler Axel Freed Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
The Godfather: Part II Sonny Corleone
Freebie and the Bean Freebie
1975 Funny Lady Billy Rose Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Rollerball Jonathan E. Saturn Award for Best Actor tied with Don Johnson for A Boy and His Dog
Gone with the West Jud McGraw
The Killer Elite Mike Locken
1976 Harry and Walter Go to New York Harry Dighby
1977 A Bridge Too Far SSgt. Eddie Dohun
Un autre homme, une autre chance David Williams aka Another Man, Another Chance
1978 Comes a Horseman Frank 'Buck' Athearn
1979 1941 Sailor in fight (uncredited)
Chapter Two George Schneider
1980 Hide in Plain Sight Thomas Hacklin
1981 Thief Frank
Les uns et les autres Jack Glenn/Jason Glenn aka Dance of Life
1982 Kiss Me Goodbye Jolly Villano
1987 Gardens of Stone Sgt. Clell Hazard
Alien Nation Det. Sgt. Matthew Sykes
1989 Dad
1990 Dick Tracy Spaldoni
Misery Paul Sheldon Nominated — Saturn Award for Best Actor
1991 The Dark Backward Doctor Scurvy
For the Boys Eddie Sparks
1992 Honeymoon in Vegas Tommy Korman
1993 The Program Sam Winters
Flesh and Bone Roy Sweeney
1995 A Boy Called Hate Jim
1996 North Star Sean McLennon
Bottle Rocket Mr. Henry
Eraser U.S. Marshal Robert Deguerin
Bulletproof Frank Colton
1998 This Is My Father Kieran Johnson
1999 Mickey Blue Eyes Frank Vitale
2000 The Yards Frank Olchin
Luckytown Charlie Doyles
The Way of the Gun Joe Sarno
2001 Viva Las Nowhere Roy Baker
"A Glimpse of Hell" Capt. Fred Moosally
In the Shadows Lance Huston
2002 Night at the Golden Eagle Prison Warden (uncredited)
City of Ghosts Marvin
2003 Jericho Mansions Leonard Grey
Dogville The Big Man
This Thing of Ours Jimmy 'the con'
Elf Walter
2005 Santa's Slay Darren Mason (uncredited)
2008 Get Smart The President
2009 Mercy Gerry Ryan
New York, I Love You Mr. Riccoli (segment "Brett Ratner")

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Tim Lockwood (Flint's father) (voice)

Sweetwater Ned Irish (pre-production)
2010 Middle Men Jerry Haggerty
2011 Tribes of October (pre-production)


  1. James Caan Biography (1940?-)
  2. "The History of Karate in America" The American Black Belt Society, Retrieved November 1, 2006

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