Caan, James

views updated Jun 11 2018

James Caan


Born March 26, 1939, in Bronx, NY; son of Arthur (a meat dealer) and Sophie Caan; married Dee-Jay Mathis (a dancer), 1961 (divorced, 1966); married Sheila Ryan (a model and actress), 1976 (divorced, 1977); married Ingrid Hajek (a pastry chef), September 9, 1990 (divorced, 1995); married Linda Stokes, October 7, 1995; children: Tara (from first marriage), Scott Andrew (an actor; from second marriage), Alexander James (from third marriage), James Arthur, Jacob Nicholas (from fourth marriage). Education: Studied economics at Michigan State University; studied theater at Hofstra University, Long Island, NY; studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, New York, NY, and with Wynn Handman.


Contact—P.O. Box 6646, Denver, CO 80206–0646; 644 Amalfi Dr., Pacific Palisades, CA 90272.


Actor in films, including: Irma La Douce (uncredited), 1963; Lady in a Cage, 1964; The Glory Guys, 1965; Red Line 7000, 1965; El Dorado, 1966; Games, 1967; Countdown, 1968; Journey to Shiloh, 1968; Submarine X–1, 1968; The Rain People, 1969; Rabbit, Run, 1970; T.R. Baskin, 1971; The Godfather, 1972; Slither, 1972; Cinderella Liberty, 1973; The Gambler, 1974; The Godfather: Part II (uncredited), 1974; Freebie and the Bean, 1974; Funny Lady, 1975; Rollerball, 1975; The Killer Elite, 1975; Gone with the West, 1976; Silent Movie, 1976; Harry and Walter Go to New York, 1976; A Bridge Too Far, 1977; Another Man, Another Chance, 1977; Comes a Horseman, 1978; ChapterTwo, 1979; 1941 (uncredited), 1979; Hide in Plain Sight (also director), 1980; Thief, 1981; Kiss Me Goodbye, 1982; Gardens of Stone, 1987; Alien Nation, 1988; Dick Tracy, 1990; Misery, 1990; For the Boys, 1991; The Dark Backward, 1991; Honeymoon in Vegas, 1992; The Program, 1993; Flesh and Bone, 1993; Tashunga, 1996; A Boy Called Hate, 1996; Bottle Rocket, 1996; Eraser, 1996; Bulletproof, 1996; This Is My Father, 1998; Mickey Blue Eyes, 1999; Luckytown, 2000; The Way of the Gun, 2000; The Yards, 2000; Viva Las Nowhere, 2001; In the Shadows, 2001; Night at the Golden Eagle (uncredited), 2002; City of Ghosts, 2002; Dogville, 2003; Jericho Mansions, 2003; Elf, 2003; Dallas 362, 2003; This Thing of Ours, 2003. Television appearances include: Naked City, ABC, 1961; Route 66, 1961; Alcoa Premiere, 1962; The Untouchables, 1962; The Wide Country, 1962; Dr. Kildare, 1963; Death Valley Days, 1963; Ben Casey, 1963; Combat!, 1963; Kraft Suspense Theatre, 1963; The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, 1964; Wagon Train, 1965; The F.B.I., 1969; Get Smart, 1969; Brian's Song (movie), ABC, 1971; Rowan & Martin's Laugh–In, 1972; Superstunt (movie), 1978; Bolero (miniseries), 1981; News-Radio, 1996; Poodle Springs (movie), HBO, 1998; A Glimpse of Hell (movie), FX, 2001; Warden of Red Rock (movie), Showtime, 2001; Hearts of Men (movie), USA, 2002; Lathe of Heaven (movie), 2002; Blood Crime (movie), 2002; Las Vegas, NBC, 2003—; The IncredibleMrs. Ritchie (movie), 2003. Stage appearances include: (as Jimmy Caan) La Ronde, 1960; Blood, Sweat, and Stanley Poole, 1961.


Though American actor James Caan was a leading man in the 1970s—his best–known role was as Sonny Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather—he stopped acting for five years in the 1980s. Even before he left the industry behind, he was already playing more character roles, a trend that would continue into the early 2000s. His up–and–down career was slowly rebuilt after his hiatus, primarily after the success of 1990's Misery. Caan was often cast in tough guy roles, especially mafia types, but he also succeeded in doing comedy, singing, and dancing. His tough reputation spilled over into Caan's personal life which was marred by several arrests for violence.

Caan was born on March 26, 1939, in the Bronx, New York, the son of Arthur and Sophie Caan. His father was employed as a kosher meat wholesaler. Caan grew up in Sunnyside, Queens, New York, and Long Island City, with his brother, Ronald, who became a producer, and his sister, Barbara. As a child, Caan attended PS 150 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York. When he was a high school student at Rhodes High School, Caan was an athlete and class president.

After graduating from Rhodes, Caan entered Michigan State University where he studied economics and wanted to play football so that he could have a career as a professional football player. However, when he came to Michigan State, he was too small to make the team and had to give up his football dreams. Caan then transferred to Hofstra University where he studied theater. Caan later studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre with Sanford Meisner in New York City and with Wynn Handman.

Caan began his professional acting career on stage in New York City. His stage debut came in 1960 in La Ronde. The following year, Caan made his Broadway debut in Blood, Sweat, and Stanley Poole in 1961. He then moved to Los Angeles, California, where he began working in television. Caan appeared in some episodic television roles on shows like Naked City. Within a short time, Caan was also appearing in feature films. His first role was an uncredited part in 1963's Irma La Douce. His first real film role came in 1964's Lady in a Cage.

In 1969, Caan appeared in The Rain People, a film directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It was Coppola who soon helped Caan's career take off. In the early 1970s, Caan had two breakout roles that were among the best of his career. The first was the part of Brian Piccolo in the 1971 television movie, Brian's Song. Piccolo was a professional football player for the Chicago Bears who was stricken with cancer at the height of his career. Caan was nominated for an Emmy Award for his work in the television movie. Coppola then cast Caan in a role the actor was forever identified with in The Godfather.

In 1972's The Godfather, Caan played Sonny Corleone, the eldest son of the mafia capo. Caan's character was a violent man who was tapped to run the family business until he was killed at a tollbooth in one of the film's most famous scenes. Caan was nominated for an Academy Award as a best supporting actor for his work. Caan's success in The Godfather led to many starring roles in film in the 1970s and early 1980s, though he also had a problem from being typecast as a Sonny Corleone type. The actor also turned down roles in what became some of the big leading roles of the decade. He was offered, but refused, roles in many critically acclaimed films, including: M*A*S*H, Love Story, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Kramer vs. Kramer, Apocalypse Now, and Superman.

One of the roles that Caan did take in the 1970s was the lead in 1974's The Gambler. He was praised for his work, and later had a co–starring role in Freebie and the Bean in the same year. In 1975, Caan was able to show off his other talents when he played Billy Rose in Funny Lady, the Barbra Streisand vehicle in which she played Fanny Brice. Caan sang in the film. While working on his directorial debut, Caan took a role in 1979's Chapter Two to raise funds to finish his film. Chapter Two was based on a play of the same name, and Caan played the character based on the playwright.

In 1980, Caan's directorial debut, Hide in Plain Sight was released. He also had the starring role in the film. Hide in Plain Sight had taken Caan two and a half years to make, and he said he never wanted to direct again. The film was based on the true story of a divorced father who lost touch with his children when their stepfather was put in the witness protection program because he was an informant on the mob. The father, played by Caan, had to sue to find his children. Caan wanted to make to a simple, powerful film, but was upset that the film studio executives added music to the soundtrack that he did not want. In addition to that and other other clashes with the production company, Hidden in Plain Sight was a failure at the box office.

Caan went on to star in a few films in the early 1980s. In 1981, he played the title role in Thief. Caan was proud of his work in the film, though it did not do well at the box office. The following year, he played the ghost of the husband of a character played by Sally Field in Kiss Me Goodbye. Caan later said he disliked this film, as he did several films he appeared in just to work or for the money.

Kiss Me Goodbye was one of the last film that Caan would make for several years. He did not make any films between 1982 and 1987. During that time, he suffered some personal tragedies. His sister, Barbara, died of leukemia. Caan had run–ins with the law, including a 1980 arrest when he was charged with beating Sheila Ryan, his ex–wife, after she told him she was re–marrying. Caan also had problems with his temper, drug use, abuse, and depression. But he also found joy in raising his son, Scott, of whom he had custody. Caan spent as much time as possible with him; he even coached his son's sports teams.

Though Caan said he had no intention of returning to acting, in 1987, he was forced to restart his career because he was having financial problems because an associate mismanaged his funds. Coppola gave Caan his first film role in five years when the director cast the actor as a burnt–out career military officer working burial duty at Arlington National Cemetery in the Vietnam–era Gardens of Stone. In 1988, Caan took on an entirely different film role when he appeared in Alien Nation, an adventure set in the future when space aliens were moving to the United States. Caan played a veteran police detective who was partnered with an alien.

Within a few years of the reawakening of his acting career, Caan was in one of his biggest box office hits. In 1990, he was given a lead role in Misery, based on a story by Stephen King, when Warren Beatty was dropped from the project. Caan played a romance novelist who has a car accident near the home of an overenthusiastic fan, played by Kathy Bates. The fan is angry with the changes the author has made in some of his recent works, and holds him captive and inflicts injury on him. Caan receive good reviews for the role he called the most physically demanding of his career as he had to stay in bed most of the time. Misery helped put Caan's career back on track.

In the early 1990s, Caan appeared in a number of hit movies, including 1991's big budget spectacle, For the Boys. In the film, Caan played Eddie Sparks, a member of a song–and–dance team with Bette Midler. The film explores their relationship as they entertain troops from World War II to Vietnam. The role allowed Caan to show more of his singing and dancing skills. Midler complimented her co–star, telling Bernard Weinraub of New York Times, "Somehow Jimmy's acting never shows.… He has a more languid way of working. And everything he does is very small—he's a master of the small gesture, the flickering eyelash; everything was exquisitely right. He has all these deep layers of macho stuff; he's very boisterous, very outgoing, but then you work with him and get him in a corner, and you realize he's very smart and very sensitive."

Caan went on to appear in a number of other films of significance in the 1990s. He played a gangster the 1992 romantic comedy Honeymoon in Vegas, a box office hit. In 1993, Caan played a football coach in the controversial film, The Program. Caan's son, Scott, also began an acting career, and the pair appeared together in 1996's A Boy Called Hate. The breadth of his film choices could be seen by two films released in 1996, Eraser, an action picture starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the comedy Bulletproof.

While Caan's career was rebounding during this time period, he was still having numerous run–ins with the law and with tragic incidents. In 1993, while Caan was staying at a friend's apartment, a young aspiring actor, Mark Alan Schwartz, fell from the fire escape to his death. A year later, he was arrested for showing his gun in public to Derek Lee, a rap artist, and for beating up a woman. Both cases never went to trial. Caan checked himself into drug rehabilitation in 1995 at the Exodus Recovery Center and remained clean after that date.

Many of Caan's film roles in the late 1990s and early 2000s were again tough guys, often mafia types. In 1999's Mickey Blue Eyes, he played a gangster opposite Hugh Grant who played his future son–in–law. In the 2000 thriller The Way of the Gun, Caan's character was the muscle for a mafia lawyer, but was a bad guy with good intentions and the moral character in the film. Caan went on to play Uncle Frank, a subway contractor in New York City who operates a company which has been corrupted by mafia connections, in 2000's The Yards. Not all his films were dark, however. In 2003, he played a publishing company executive who learns his long–lost son was raised by elves, in the holiday hit, Elf. Both the film and Caan received good reviews.

Caan also began working in television more in this time period. After playing detective Philip Marlowe in the 1998 television movie Poodle Springs, based on an unfinished novel by Raymond Chandler, he appeared in two more television movies in 2001, FX's A Glimpse of Hell and Showtime's Warden of Red Rock. In the former, Caan played a navy captain in the 1989 real–life tragedy that occurred on the USS Iowa, while in the latter, a western, he played a warden of a local prison. In 2003, Caan began starring in his first major television series, the NBC drama Las Vegas. He played "Big Ed" Deline, the head of security at a casino. Las Vegas was one of the most popular new dramas on television that season, and Caan was the senior member of an ensemble cast. In 2004, Caan began filming the motion picture Santa's Slay.

Having been at both the bottom and the top of the acting business, Caan was able to offer sage advice to aspiring actors. He told Denis Hamill of Daily News, "[W]hat is inevitable, no matter what heights you achieve, is that there is a slide down. The degree varies of course, but if your whole life is [acting], you're nuts. Because then when your career slides, your life goes with it. So acting is not my life, it's my job. It's very, very important to me. But my life, my family, my wife, my children, my friends, my health, their health. After that, of course, I'd also like to be the best actor in the world."



Celebrity Biographies, Baseline II, Inc., 2004.


Atlanta Journal–Constitution, November 7, 2003, p. 1D.

Boston Globe, November 27, 1991, p. 23; September 22, 2003, p. B7; January 3, 2004, p. C8.

Chicago Sun–Times, August 15, 1999, p. 3.

Christian Science Monitor, April 11, 1980, p. 19.

Daily News (New York), March 19, 1998, p. 2.

Esquire, May 1998, p. 82.

Houston Chronicle, March 16, 2001, p. 10.

Independent (London, England), October 19, 2000, p. 7.

New York Times, April 3, 1981, p. C6; November 17, 1991, sec. 2, p. 13; September 8, 2000, p. E10.

Observer, August 22, 1999, p. 12.

People, October 4, 1993, p. 53; December 15, 2003, p. 24.

San Francisco Chronicle, November 7, 2003, p. D1.

St. Louis Post–Dispatch, December 7, 1990, p. 1F.

Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), April 19, 2001, p. 54.

Time, November 24, 2003, p. 89.

Toronto Star, May 26, 1987, p. G1; October 5, 1988, p. F1; November 30, 1990, p. D16; September 21, 2003, p. TV2.

USA Today, July 21, 1994, p. 2D.

Washington Post, March 21, 1980, p. D1.


Caan, James 1940(?)–(Jimmy Caan)

views updated May 18 2018

CAAN, James 1940(?)
(Jimmy Caan)


Born March 26, 1940 (some sources cite 1939), in Bronx, NY; son of Arthur (a meat dealer) and Sophie Caan; brother of Ronald "Ronnie" Caan (a producer); married DeeJay Mathis (a dancer), c. 1961 (divorced, 1966); married Sheila Ryan (a model and actress), 1976 (divorced, 1977); married Ingrid Hajek, September 9, 1990 (divorced, 1994); married Linda Stokes (some sources cite name as Linda O'Gara), October 7, 1995; children: (first marriage) Tara; (second marriage) Scott Andrew (an actor and musician); (third marriage) Alexander James; (fourth marriage) James Arthur, Jacob Nicholas. Education: Attended Michigan State University; studied drama at Hofstra College (now University); trained for the stage with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse and with Wynn Handman. Religion: Jewish. Avocational Interests: Tennis, basketball, skiing, martial arts (holds black belt in karate).

Addresses: Agent Endeavor, 9701 Wilshire Blvd., 10th Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.

Career: Actor. Worked as a rodeo rider on the professional circuit for nine years; also worked as a waiter, bouncer, lifeguard, and camp counselor.

Awards, Honors: Golden Globe Award nomination, most promising male newcomer, 1966, for The Glory Guys; nomination for Golden Laurel Award, outstanding male new face, 1968; Emmy Award nomination, best actor in a single performance, 1972, for Brian's Song; Academy Award nomination and Golden Globe Award nomination, both best supporting actor, 1973, for The Godfather; Golden Globe Award nomination, best motion picture actor in a drama, 1975, for The Gambler; Golden Globe Award nomination, best motion picture actor in a musical or comedy, 1976, for Funny Lady; Golden Scroll, best actor, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films, 1976, for Rollerball; Hollywood Discovery Award, outstanding achievement in acting, Hollywood Film Festival, 1999; Video Premiere Award nomination, best supporting actor, 2001, for Luckytown; Lifetime Achievement Award, Florida Film Festival, 2003; received star on Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Film Appearances:

(Film debut; uncredited) Soldier with radio, Irma La Douce, United Artists, 1963.

Randall, Lady in a Cage, Paramount, 1964.

Mike Marsh, Red Line 7000, Paramount, 1965.

Private Anthony Dugan, The Glory Guys, United Artists, 1965.

Paul Montgomery, Games, Universal, 1967.

Alan Bourdillon "Mississippi" Traherne, El Dorado, Paramount, 1967.

Buck Burnett, Journey to Shiloh, Universal, 1968.

Lee Stegler, Countdown, Warner Bros., 1968.

Jimmie "Killer" Kilgannon, The Rain People, Warner Bros., 1969.

Lieutenant Commander John Bolton (some sources cite Commander Richard Bolton), Submarine X1, United Artists, 1969.

Rabbit Angstrom, Rabbit, Run, Warner Bros., 1970.

Larry Moore, T. R. Baskin (also known as A Date with a Lonely Girl ), Paramount, 1971.

Sonny Corleone, The Godfather (also known as Mario Puzo's The Godfather ), Paramount, 1972.

Dick Kanipsia, Slither, MetroGoldwynMayer, 1973.

Sonny Corleone, The Godfather, Part II (also known as Mario Puzo's The Godfather, Part II ), Paramount, 1974.

Freebie, Freebie and the Bean, Warner Bros., 1974.

Alex Freed, The Gambler, 1974.

John Baggs, Jr., Cinderella Liberty, Twentieth CenturyFox, 1975.

Mike Locken, The Killer Elite, United Artists, 1975.

Jonathan E., Rollerball, United Artists, 1975.

Billy Rose, Funny Lady, Columbia, 1975.

Jud McGraw, Gone with the West (also known as Bronco Busters, Little Moon and Jud McGraw, and Man without Mercy ), 1975.

Himself, From Rome to Rollerball: The Full Circle, 1975.

Himself, Silent Movie, Twentieth CenturyFox, 1976.

Harry Dighby, Harry and Walter Go to New York, Columbia, 1976.

Staff Sergeant Eddie Dohun, A Bridge Too Far, United Artists, 1977.

David Williams, Un autre homme, une autre chance (also known as Another Man, Another Chance and Another Man, Another Woman ), United Artists, 1977.

Frank "Buck" Athearn, Comes a Horseman, United Artists, 1978.

George Schneider, Chapter Two, Columbia, 1979.

(Uncredited) Sailor in fight, 1941, Universal, 1979.

Thomas Hacklin, Jr., Hide in Plain Sight, MetroGoldwynMayer/United Artists, 1980.

Frank, Thief (also known as Violent Streets ), United Artists, 1981.

Jack Glenn and Jason Glenn, Bolero (also known as Within Memory and Les uns et les autres ), Double 13, 1982.

Jolly Villano, Kiss Me Goodbye, Twentieth CenturyFox, 1982.

Clell Hazard, Gardens of Stone, TriStar, 1988.

Detective Sergeant Matthew Sykes, Alien Nation, Twentieth CenturyFox, 1988.

Paul Sheldon, Misery, Columbia, 1990.

Spaldoni, Dick Tracy, Buena Vista, 1990.

Sonny Corleone (in archive footage), The Godfather: Part III (also known as Mario Puzo's The Godfather: Part III ), 1990.

Eddie Sparks, For the Boys, TwentiethCentury Fox, 1991.

Dr. Scurvy, The Dark Backward (also known as The Man with Three Arms ), RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video, 1991.

Tommy Korman, Honeymoon in Vegas, Columbia, 1992.

Coach Sam Winters, The Program, Buena Vista, 1993.

Roy Sweeney, Flesh and Bone, Paramount, 1993.

Jim, A Boy Called Hate, Dove Entertainment, 1996.

Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, 1996.

Abe Henry, Bottle Rocket, Columbia, 1996.

U.S. Marshal Robert Deguerin, Eraser, Warner Bros., 1996.

Frank Colton, Bulletproof, Universal, 1996.

Sean McLennon, North Star (also known as Alaska, Duello tra i ghiacci, Grand nord, and Tashunga ), Goldcrest Films International, 1996.

Howard Hawks, American Artist, 1997.

Kieran Johnson, This Is My Father (also known as L'histoire de mon pere ), Sony Pictures Classics, 1999.

Frank Vitale, Mickey Blue Eyes, Warner Bros., 1999.

Frank Olchin, The Yards, Miramax, 2000.

Charlie Doyles, Luckytown, A Plus Entertainment, 2000.

Joe Sarno, The Way of the Gun, Artisan Entertainment, 2000.

Roy Baker, Viva Las Nowhere (also known as Dead Simple ), Viva Las Nowhere Productions, 2001.

Lance Huston, In the Shadows, Lions Gate Films, 2001.

(Uncredited) Prison warden, Night at the Golden Eagle, ShangriLa Entertainment, 2002.

Marvin, City of Ghosts, MetroGoldwynMayer, 2002.

The big man, Dogville, Lions Gate Entertainment, 2003.

Walter, Dallas 362, Dallas & Rusty/Konwiser Brothers/Sunlion Films, 2003.

Jimmy "The Con," This Thing of Ours, Small Planet Pictures, 2003.

Leonard Grey, Jericho Mansions, Vine International, 2003.

Buddy's biological father, Elf, New Line Cinema, 2003.

William Larnach, Castle of Lies, First Sun/Parallel Castle Pictures, 2003.

Dogville Confessions (documentary), Trust Film Sales, 2003.

Film Work:

Director, Hide in Plain Sight, MetroGoldwynMayer/United Artists, 1980.

Television Appearances; Series:

Big Ed Deline, Las Vegas, NBC, beginning 2003.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Brian Piccolo, Brian's Song, ABC, 1971.

Philip Marlowe, Poodle Springs, HBO, 1998.

John Flinders, Warden of Red Rock, Showtime, 2001.

Captain Fred Moosally, A Glimpse of Hell, FX Channel, 2001.

Dr. William Haber, The Lathe of Heaven, Arts and Entertainment, 2002.

Sheriff Morgan McKenna, Blood Crime, USA Network, 2002.

Hearts of Men, USA Network, 2002.

Harry Dewitt, The Incredible Mrs. Ritchie, Showtime, 2003.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

(As Jimmy Caan) "Bullets Cost Too Much," Naked City, ABC, 1961.

Johnny, "And the Cat Jumped over the Moon," Route 66, CBS, 1961.

"The Masked Marine," Alcoa Premiere, ABC, 1962.

Keir Brannon, "A Fist of Five," The Untouchables, ABC, 1962.

Buddie Simpson, "A Cry from the Mountains," The Wide Country, NBC, 1963.

Charley Johnson, "The Mosaic," Dr. Kildare, NBC, 1963.

Dr. Keith Gregory, "Justice to a Microbe," Ben Casey, ABC, 1963.

Jim McKinney, "Deadly Decision," Death Valley Days, syndicated, 1963.

"Shadow of Violence," Death Valley Days, syndicated, 1963.

Sergeant Beckman, "Anatomy of a Patrol," Combat!, ABC, 1963.

Rick Peterson, "The Hunt," Kraft Suspense Theater, NBC, 1963.

"Glass Flowers Never Drop Petals," Breaking Point, ABC, 1964.

"My Son, the All American," Channing, ABC, 1964.

Jay Shaw, "Memo from Purgatory," Alfred Hitchcock Presents (also known as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour ), NBC, 1964.

Paul, "The Echo Pass Story," Wagon Train, ABC, 1965.

Eugene David "Gene" Holt, "A Life in the Balance," The F.B.I., ABC, 1969.

(Uncredited) Rotten Rupert of Rathskeller, "To Sire, with Love: Parts 1 & 2," Get Smart, 1969.

Guest, Rowan & Martin's LaughIn, 1972.

Guest, Late Show with David Letterman, multiple appearances, 19942001.

Himself, "Movie Star," NewsRadio, NBC, 1996.

Himself, "Hollywood," Unzipped, 1999.

Guest, Dinner for Five, 2003.

Guest, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, 2003.

Also appeared in Inside the Actors Studio.

Television Appearances; Specials:

Rickles, CBS, 1975.

Himself and Billy Rose, Funny Girl to Funny Lady, 1975.

Celebration: The American Spirit, ABC, 1976.

Superstunt, NBC, 1977.

Playboy's 25th Anniversary Special, ABC, 1979.

Night of 100 Stars, ABC, 1982.

Kenny Rogers Classic Weekend, ABC, 1988.

AllStar Tribute to Kareem AbdulJabbar, NBC, 1989.

The Godfather Family: A Look Inside, HBO, 1990.

The AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Stars, CBS, 1991.

Voice, Earth and the American Dream, HBO, 1993.

Host, HarleyDavidson: The American Motorcycle, TBS, 1993.

The Making of a Mobster: "Mickey Blue Eyes, " 1999.

ESPY Awards, 2000.

Playboy: The Party Continues, 2000.

James Caan: Making a Scene, Arts and Entertainment, 2001.

Inside the Playboy Mansion, Arts and Entertainment, 2002.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Himself, "Naked Hollywood," A&E Premieres, Arts and Entertainment, 1991.

Stage Appearances:

(OffBroadway debut; as Jimmy Caan) The soldier, La Ronde, Theatre Marquee, 1960. (Broadway debut) Blood, Sweat, and Stanley Poole,

Morosco Theatre, 1961.

Mandingo, Lyceum Theatre, New York City, 1961.

Night of 100 Stars, Radio City Music Hall, New York City, 1982.



Don Rickles: Buy This Tape You Hockey Puck, 1975.

Dorothy Stratten: The Untold Story, 1985.

Santino "Sonny" Corelone, The Godfather Trilogy: 19011980 (also known as The Godfather Saga and The Godfather Trilogy ), 1992.

The Directors: Norman Jewison, 1997.

Come Get Some: The Women of the WWF, Silver Vision Video, 1999.



Entertainment Weekly, June 28, 1996, pp. 4446, 48, 50.

Esquire, May, 1998, p. 82.

Parade, October 12, 2003, p. 14.

People Weekly, October 4, 1993, p. 53; July 8, 1996, p. 110.

Premiere, December, 1991, p. 79; October, 2000, p. 34.

Time, May 27, 2002, p. G10.

TV Guide, July 25, 1998, pp. 2729; September 27, 2003, pp. 5559.


James Caan: Making a Scene (television special), Arts and Entertainment, 2001.

Caan, James

views updated May 09 2018

CAAN, James

Nationality: American. Born: Queens, New York, 26 March 1939. Education: Attended Rhodes High School, Manhattan; Michigan State University; Hofstra College, Long Island; studied acting with Wynn Handman of the Neighborhood Playhouse, New York. Family: Married 1) Dee Jay Mattis, 1961 (divorced 1966), daughter: Tara; 2) Sheila Ryan, 1976 (divorced 1977), son: the actor Scott Caan; 3) Ingrid Hajek, 1990 (divorced); also son: Alexander; 4) Linda Stokes, 1995, two sons: James and Jacob. Career: Began acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City, 1960; made his film debut in an unbilled bit role in Wilder's Irma La Douce, 1963; appeared on Broadway in Mandingo and Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole, early 1960s; gained public attention in the role of Brian Piccolo in the TV film Brian's Song, 1970; won critical acclaim for his role in The Godfather, 1972; made his directorial debut with Hide in Plain Sight, 1979. Award: Hollywood Film Festival Hollywood discovery Award for Outstanding Achievement in Acting, 1999. Address: 1435 Stone Canyon, Los Angeles, CA 90077, U.S.A.

Films as Actor:


Irma La Douce (Wilder) (bit)


Lady in a Cage (Grauman) (as Randall)


The Glory Guys (Laven) (as Pvt. Anthony Dugan); Red Line 7000 (Hawks) (as Mike Marsh)


El Dorado (Hawks) (as Alan "Mississippi" Bourdillon Traherne); Games (Harrington) (as Paul)


Countdown (Moonshot) (Altman) (as Lee); Journey to Shiloh (Hale) (as Buck Burnett); Submarine X-1 (Graham) (as Lt. Cmdr. Bolton)


The Rain People (Francis Ford Coppola) (as Jimmie "Killer" Kilgannon)


Rabbit, Run (Smight) (as Rabbit Angstrom); Brian's Song (Kulik—for TV) (as Brian Piccolo)


T. R. Baskin (Date with a Lonely Girl) (Ross) (as Larry Moore)


The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola) (as Sonny Corleone)


Slither (Zieff) (as Dick Kanipsia); Cinderella Liberty (Rydell) (as John Baggs Jr.)


Freebie and the Bean (Rush) (as Freebie); The Gambler (Reisz) (as Axel Freed); The Godfather, Part II (Francis Ford Coppola) (as Sonny Corleone)


Gone with the West (Man without Mercy; Bronco Busters; Little Moon and Jud McGraw) (Girard); Funny Lady (Ross) (as Billy Rose); Rollerball (Jewison) (as Jonathan E.); Killer Elite (Peckinpah) (as Mike Locken)


Harry and Walter Go to New York (Rydell) (as Harry Dighby); Silent Movie (Mel Brooks) (as himself)


A Bridge Too Far (Attenborough and Hayers) (as Sgt. Dohun); Un autre Homme, une autre Chance (Another Man, Another Chance; Another Man, Another Woman) (Lelouch) (as David Williams)


Comes a Horseman (Pakula) (as Frank)


Chapter Two (Moore) (as George Schneider)


Thief (Violent Streets) (Michael Mann) (as Frank); Les Uns et les autres (Bolero; Within Memory) (Lelouch) (as Glenn Sr./Glenn Jr.)


Kiss Me Goodbye (Mulligan) (as Jolly Villano)


Gardens of Stone (Francis Ford Coppola) (as Sgt. Clell Hazard)


Alien Nation (Outer Heat) (Baker) (as Matthew Sykes)


Misery (Rob Reiner) (as Paul Sheldon); Dick Tracy (Beatty) (as Spaldoni)


For the Boys (Rydell) (as Eddie Sparks); The Dark Backward (Rifkin) (as Dr. Scurvy)


Honeymoon in Vegas (Andrew Bergman) (as Tommy Korman)


The Program (Ward) (as Coach Sam Winters); Flesh and Bone (Kloves) (as Roy Sweeney); Earth and the American Dream (Couturie—doc) (as voice)


A Boy Called Hate (Marcus); Tashunga (Grand nord; North Star) (Gaup) (as Sean McLennon)


Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson) (as Mr. Henry); Bulletproof (Dickerson) (as Frank Colton); Eraser (Chuck Russell) (as Robert Deguerin)


This Is My Father (Quinn) (as Kieran Johnson); Poodle Springs (Rafelson—for TV) (as Philip Marlowe)


Mickey Blue Eyes (Makin) (as Frank Vitale)


The Yards (Gray) (as Frank Olchin); Luckytown Blues (Nicholas) (as Charlie Doyles); Viva Las Nowhere (Bloom) (as Roy); The Warden (Gyllenhall—for TV) (as John Flinders); Way of the Gun (McQuarrie); In the Boom Boom Room (Kopple)


Night at the Golden Eagle (Rifkin); In the Shadows (Waugh)

Film as Director:


Hide in Plain Sight (+ ro as Thomas Hacklin)


By CAAN: articles—

"James Caan: His Godfather's Son," interview with R. Feiden, in Inter/View (New York), May 1972.

"James Caan: Off Set," interview with V. Fremont, in Interview (New York), January 1974.

Interview in Photoplay (London), October 1982.

On CAAN: books—

Zuckerman, Ira, The Godfather Journal, New York, 1972.

Puzo, Mario, The Making of the Godfather, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1973.

On CAAN: articles—

McGillivray, D., "James Caan," in Focus on Film (London), Autumn 1972.

Current Biography 1976, New York, 1976.

Ciné Revue (Paris), 23 April 1981, and 24 March 1983.

Weinraub, Bernard, "James Caan Rises from the Ashes of His Career," in New York Times, 17 November 1991.

Reinert, Al, "Raising Caan," in Premiere (New York), December 1991.

Rebello, S., "The Ultimate Caan Game," in Movieline, October 1993.

Allen, T., "Tough guys dance," in Esquire (New York), May 1998.

* * *

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, James Caan was one of the most promising and interesting young actors in Hollywood. Clearly, he was multitalented. As the young punk who terrorizes Olivia de Havilland in Lady in a Cage, his first featured movie role, he showcased his skill at playing a sadistic thug who could rattle your spine—an aspect of his range he would expand on less than a decade later as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather. He further demonstrated his talent, offering a likable, star-making performance in Howard Hawks's El Dorado. In his role as the young drifter Mississippi (aka Alan Bourdillon Traherne), Caan is showcased opposite John Wayne's hero-gunfighter Cole Thornton and Robert Mitchum's drunken sheriff J. P. Harrah. In this part, the young actor was able to put across macho and swagger while at the same time remaining likably boyish.

Caan added to his expanding reputation with a sensitive performance as the ill-fated pro football player Brian Piccolo opposite Billy Dee Williams's Gale Sayers in Brian's Song, one of the best-ever made-for-television movies. Another key (but often overlooked) early Caan performance which adds yet another dimension to his career came in The Rain People, the story of a pregnant housewife (Shirley Knight) who abandons her husband and commences a cross-country journey of self-discovery. Along the way, she picks up a deeply vulnerable, brain-damaged ex-college football player (Caan). The film is ahead of its time in its depiction of a woman struggling for an independent identity; while Knight is outstanding, Caan matches her with his deeply sensitive and keenly insightful performance in a role that easily might have defeated a less-talented actor.

The penultimate accomplishment of Caan's career remains Sonny Corleone: a performance that announced his arrival as one of his generation's major movie stars. Caan's acting is galvanizing, as he inhabits the role of the psychotic, trigger-happy heir to the Corleone throne, who (predictably but appropriately) meets a violent and bloody end. The film depicts organized crime as an extension of American capitalism; the Corleones essentially are a family of prosperous businessmen, a corporate entity whose powers understand all too well that ruthlessness and treachery are accepted means to success. Sonny, however, more than any other character, represents the true nature of the clan Corleone; he is a thug who is thoroughly remorseless in his out-of-control violence. If you so much as stare at Sonny Corleone, let alone attempt to defy him, he will challenge you, and then promptly blow you away. Sonny, as played by Caan, is the family enforcer, the reality behind the facade of respectability, in a business which relies on employing guns or fists instead of telephone calls or memos as a means of communication.

Since the release of The Godfather in 1972, Caan has, unfortunately, found it impossible to top himself. Unlike his Godfather co-star Al Pacino, he has not had great roles in memorable films; none of his subsequent work matches the overall quality of Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon, Pacino's Godfather follow-ups. And so Caan (who also lacks Pacino's Actors Studio pedigree) does not enjoy a reputation similar to Pacino as an actor's actor.

He has, however, done substantial work in a number of films, which have allowed him to display his range. He has played nice guys (the kindhearted sailor in Cinderella Liberty and the widowed writer in Chapter Two, both opposite Marsha Mason); a cerebral lawbreaker (the title character in Thief); a career soldier/war veteran who has come to oppose America's involvement in Vietnam, in Gardens of Stone (which, as The Rain People and The Godfather, was directed by Francis Ford Coppola); and, most memorably, the pitifully addicted college professor/title character in The Gambler. Caan also directed as well as starred in Hide in Plain Sight, playing a divorced man in search of his children. Chapter Two (at least on screen) is second-tier Neil Simon, while Gardens of Stone is a secondary Vietnam-related title. The Gambler is obscured by the similar California Split, which also came to movie theaters in 1974. And far too many of Caan's films simply have been third rate, if not outright disasters: Freebie and the Bean, Funny Lady, Rollerball, Killer Elite, Harry and Walter Go to New York, and Kiss Me Goodbye. In the case of Misery and For theBoys, he has been overshadowed by his co-star: Kathy Bates in the former, giving an Oscar-winning performance as a psycho fan opposite Caan's romance novelist; and Bette Midler in the latter, in an Oscar-nominated performance as a star singer opposite Caan's star comedian.

In his best later-career films—Misery and Honeymoon in Vegas, a romantic comedy in which he plays a professional gambler/con man—Caan has emerged as a solid character actor. Yet in Honeymoon in Vegas, he is not so much creating a character as playing off his Godfather persona. He further spoofs Sonny Corleone in Mickey Blue Eyes (another comedy, in which he is cast as a Mafia honcho) and Bulletproof (a Damon Wayans-Adam Sandler farce in which he plays a drug lord who removes his hairpiece prior to committing mayhem). In The Program, Caan may nicely underplay a college football coach, a character linked to his roles in Brian's Song and The Rain People. However, the film's failure is symbolic of the actor's plight. The Program is a Jekyll-and-Hyde football movie that celebrates on-field heroics while attempting to bare the destructiveness of the win-or-else sports mentality and the manner in which colleges exploit athletic recruits. While the scenario exudes a sense of outrage over college football program abuses, it also ends illogically, with the coach's team savoring a dramatic come-from-behind victory that salvages its season. Meanwhile, Caan's performance is lost amid the confusion.

The actor remains capable of playing characters as diverse as a cutthroat villain (without the comedy) in the Arnold Schwarzenegger actioner Eraser to a gloomy teacher who heads off to Ireland to explore his family history in This Is My Father. But for the most part, Caan remains a misused and too-often untapped talent.

—Rob Edelman

Thomason, Marsha

views updated Jun 08 2018

Marsha Thomason



Actress Marsha Thomason began her career in British television, and moved quickly into starring roles opposite such Hollywood heavyweights as Eddie Murphy and James Caan. In 2003 she began appearing in the NBC series Las Vegas, which starred her opposite Caan's Las Vegas casino-surveillance chief in what quickly became one of the breakout shows of the fall season. "When I started in the series I knew nothing about gambling," she told John Millar of Glasgow's Daily Record. "I did not even know how to shuffle a deck of cards. Now I can do some neat tricks."

Thomason was born in Manchester, England, on January 19, 1976. That same year, Bugsy Malone, a lighthearted Hollywood film about mobsters, was released. The musical by Alan Parker featured a roster of child stars, including a young Jodie Foster, portraying well-known 1930s underworld figures. Thomason has said she was fascinated by it. "I think my inspiration to become an actress is down to the film Bugsy Malone," she told Sally Morgan, a writer for the London newspaper the Mirror. "After I saw it, I used to invent plays and create a makeshift theatre, with sheets as curtains, in my bedroom. I bribed my little sister Kristy to appear in my productions, then made our parents watch."

At the age of twelve, Thomason's at-home stagings had gained her enough experience to win a place with the Oldham Theatre Workshop, a renowned children's ensemble in Lancashire. She appeared in a number of its plays and musicals, and took her first professional job at the age of 14 on a Saturday-morning children's show called The 8:15 from Manchester. Her breakout role came in 1993, when she was cast in a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) television film, Safe, about a community of homeless people in London. A year later, she won a small role as a nurse in her first feature film, Priest.

After Thomason finished at the North Manchester High School For Girls, she went on to Manchester Metropolitan University, and earned her undergraduate degree in English there. She worked during her college years, winning an especially plum role opposite Helen Mirren in the critically acclaimed crime series, Prime Suspect. In 1997, she was cast in a regular role on a BBC comedy-crime drama, Pie in the Sky. It starred Richard Griffiths, who later went on to play Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter films, as a top police detective whose boss refuses to let him retire to run his restaurant.

By 1998, Thomason had moved to London and was cast as Sharon "Shazza" Pearce in Playing the Field, a hit BBC series about a women's soccer team. As one of the Castlefield Blues, Thomason's Shazza was a loose cannon, prone to substance abuse. "It's a very physical part," she told Morgan in the Mirror interview. "In one scene I headbutt a player from a rival team and call her a fat cow." Thomason worked overtime during these years, having taken a part on another British television series, Where the Heart Is.

Thomason's first attempt to tackle an American accent in her work came when she played a prostitute in a West End theater production of Breath Boom at the Royal Court Theatre. That experience came in handy when she was cast alongside Martin Lawrence in the hit 2001 comedy film Black Knight. Lawrence played a hapless medieval theme-park employee who time-travels back into the past. Thomason was cast as Victoria, a chambermaid in the royal court with some unusually modern ideas.

Thomason made two more British films, Long Time Dead, a 2002 horror tale that also featured Lukas Haas and Alec Newman, and Pure, another work released that year in which she once again played a prostitute. This time, she was a heroin addict as well. Hollywood offered her a more sedate role as Eddie Murphy's on-screen wife in The Haunted Mansion, a horror tale from 2003. The story was based on one of the venerable attractions at the Disney theme parks, much as the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride had been turned into a successful big-screen story earlier that year. Thomason played the wife of Murphy's workaholic real-estate agent, and is trapped in the eerie manor with her husband and children when the ghost who haunts it believes she is a long-lost lover. Though it was her second big-budget Hollywood feature, she was still nervous, she told Millar in the Daily Record interview. "The first day was bizarre. I felt a bit intimidated because I was doing my American accent," she recalled, and "was terrified that they would think I was rubbish and sack me."

By the time The Haunted Mansion was releasedto generally dismal reviewsThomason had already made her American network series debut in Las Vegas. The NBC drama starred a top-notch ensemble cast that included the veteran actor Caan as a former Central Intelligence Agency operative who serves as head of security at a casino. Thomason sported a glamorous wardrobe for her role as Nessa Holt, the pit boss who keeps an eye on the tables and their gamblers on the casino floor while intrigues roil behind the scenes. The series was filmed at the Mandalay Bay casino, and Thomason told one journalist that the hardest part of the job was the standard "whoosh" shot in each episode, when the camera sweeps through the casino floor. "Every single person has to freeze and hold for a while, for a minute, and then, action," she told the Washington Times 's Christian Toto, and said that she and her castmates dreaded being the one who made a mistake and forced another take.

Thomason also appeared in My Baby's Daddy, released in early 2004, and The Nickel Children, a film about a child prostitution ring. She remains in awe of the differences between British and American television and film sets. "Here, there are so many more people involved in the shows," she told Toto. "Even the sound stages and sets dwarf their British counterparts."

Selected works


Priest, 1994.

Black Knight, 2001.

Long Time Dead, 2002.

Pure, 2002.

The Haunted Mansion, 2003.

My Baby's Daddy, 2003.

The Nickel Children, 2004.


Breath Boom, 2000.

At a Glance

Born on January 19, 1976, in Manchester, England; daughter of Peter (a city council employee) and Phyllis (an electronics company employee) Thomason. Education: Manchester Metropolitan University, BA in English, c. 1999.

Career: Actor, 1988; Oldham Theatre Workshop, Lancashire, England, actor, c. 1988.

Addresses: Office NBC Universal, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608.


The 8:15 from Manchester, 1990.

Safe, 1993.

Playing the Field, 1998.

Where the Heart Is, 1998.

Las Vegas, 2003.



Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), February 13, 2004.

Entertainment Weekly, December 5, 2003, p. 25.

Essence, December 2003, p. 146.

Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England), July 10, 2004, p. 33.

Jet, December 10, 2001, p. 57.

Mirror (London), April 18, 1998, p. 20.

People, October 20, 2003, p. 41; December 8, 2003, p. 34.

People (London), February 6, 2000, p. 28.

Washington Times, November 10, 2003, p. B6.

Carol Brennan

Caan, James

views updated May 29 2018


CAAN, JAMES (1939– ), U.S. actor. Son of a German Jewish butcher, Caan grew up in the working-class neighborhood of Sunnyside, Queens, New York City, home to a mix of Italian, Irish, and Jewish families. Caan played football for Michigan State University, but transferred by the end of his first year to Hofstra University. After taking part in a small project at a children's theater, Caan was accepted to the Neighborhood Playhouse in 1960. His film debut was an uncredited part in Billy Wilder's Irma La Douce (1963). And while his role as Brian Piccolo in Brian's Song (1971) earned him critical attention, it was his break-out performance as family enforcer Sonny Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather (1972) that gained him the most notoriety, garnering him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor and two nods as "Italian of the Year." He followed that performance with appearances in a diverse range of films such as Freebie and the Bean (1974), The Gambler (1974), and Rollerball (1975). A longtime rodeo fan with the nickname "The Jewish Cowboy," Caan snuck off during production of Funny Lady (1975) to take part in a roping competition in Palm Springs. Married four times, he lived in the Playboy Mansion after his divorce from second wife, Sheila Ryan, in the late 1970s. Caan made his directorial debut with Hide in Plain Sight (1980) and then starred in the well-received Thief (1981). After Godfather ii (1974), he worked with Coppola again in the Vietnam War-era film Gardens of Stone (1987). Caan followed with such films as Alien Nation (1988), Dick Tracy (1990), Misery (1990), Honeymoon in Vegas (1992), and Eraser (1996). In 2004 he became known to a new generation with his starring role on the hit tv series Las Vegas.

[Adam Wills (2nd ed.)]

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