The Godfather And Misery Star James Caan Is Dead At 82

James Caan talking in the study in The Godfather.
(Image credit: Paramount)

An acting legend with an impressive resume, actor James Caan could play it tender or tough – whatever the part required. With credits in brilliant films like The Godfather, Misery, and Elf, the man was widely known for his acting prowess, and in recent years for his quick social media wit. Today we honor his memory, as it has been reported that Caan has died at the age of 82. 

Using his official Twitter presence, representatives from James Caan’s family broke the news to the public. The message reads as follows, with Caan’s iconic sign off included as a fitting tribute: 

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Most well known as the actor who played Sonny, the eldest Corleone son in The Godfather’s crime family, James Caan embodied a hothead who kicked first and asked questions later. Celebrating a new 50th anniversary 4K reissue, Francis Ford Coppola’s crime saga is one of the first that comes to mind when thinking back on the actor’s career.

Fittingly enough, when Caan reflected on his career’s origins through acting lessons, the actor admitted to The New York Times, “Of course all my improvs ended in violence." Though it would be on the other side of the action, or rather the sledgehammer, that Caan would see another iconic role land in the pop culture consciousness.

James Caan would later go on to play author Paul Sheldon in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery. Being subjected to the torments of Kathy Bates’ Annie Wilkes would see a more vulnerable Caan out to play, and Bates nabbed an Academy Award acting opposite him. Misery is seen as one of the greatest Stephen King movies, and a lot of that is because of Caan's phenomenal performance

Of course, any talk of James Caan wouldn’t be complete without the mention of his part in the cast of Elf, Jon Favreau and Will Ferrell’s holiday comedy hit. As Buddy the Elf’s biological father Walter, the actor’s chops for comedy and heart were equally on display. Years later, Caan revealed why Elf 2 never happened, while also lamenting how he missed out on his chance at a franchise gig he was eager to get into.

It's sad that we'll never get to see Buddy and Walter on the big screen again, as James Caan really brought his all to a part in a film that families still revisit at the holidays. Caan's expertise with the human experience won't be forgotten any time soon, especially as fans revisit deeper cuts like the NBC series Las Vegas, the action/adventure thriller Eraser, or even his dramatic turn with Bette Midler in For The Boys.  

We here at CinemaBlend send our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of James Caan. Among those who survive him is his son, former Hawaii-Five O star Scott Cann. May they find the comfort they need in this time of grieving.  

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.