Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola among stars paying tribute to James Caan

Director Coppola said Caan was ‘one of the funniest people I’ve ever known’.
Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola among stars paying tribute to James Caan

By Ellie Iorizzo, PA Senior Entertainment Reporter

Director of The Godfather films Francis Ford Coppola and the cast have remembered “good, kind and wildly gifted” James Caan following his death aged 82.

Caan, best known for his Oscar-nominated performance as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather films alongside Hollywood actors Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton, died on Wednesday evening, his family confirmed.

Coppola, who had worked with Caan on The Rain People before The Godfather, said in a statement given to the PA news agency: “Jimmy was someone who stretched through my life longer and closer than any motion picture figure I’ve ever known.

“From those earlier times working together on The Rain People and throughout all the milestones of my life, his films and the many great roles he played will never be forgotten.

“He will always be my old friend from Sunnyside, my collaborator and one of the funniest people I’ve ever known.”

Similarly, Pacino, who starred as Michael Corleone in the classic films, said that Caan was his “fictional brother and lifelong friend.”

He said: “It’s hard to believe that he won’t be in the world anymore because he was so alive and daring. A great actor, a brilliant director and my dear friend. I’m gonna miss him.”

Meanwhile, De Niro added he was “very very sad to hear about Jimmy’s passing.”

Shire, who played Connie Corleone in the crime saga films, said in a statement given to the PA news agency: “James was a good man, a kind man, a family man, and a wildly gifted man – whose great talent will always be loved and remembered. My prayers are with his family that he treasured so dearly.”

Similarly, star of The Godfather III film Joe Mantegna tweeted: “One of the great gifts in being part of The Godfather family was becoming friends with James Caan. Rest In Peace Jimmy.”

The veteran actor’s other notable credits include playing cancer-stricken Chicago Bears footballer Brian Piccolo in sporting drama Brian’s Song, which saw him earn an Emmy nomination in 1972.

Brian’s Song co-star and Star Wars actor Billy Dee Williams led tributes to the actor on Thursday, sharing a picture on Twitter of Caan smiling while perched on his lap.

He wrote: “Team Mates and friends till the end. RIP Jimmy,” with a broken-heart emoji.

Actor Gary Sinise, who starred as Lieutenant Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump, tweeted: “Very sad to hear the news that James Caan has died. Heartbroken for his family & his friends.

“Wonderful to know him & call him a pal. Jimmy was so supportive of Gary Sinise Foundation & my work w/ our veterans. He will be missed. Thank you my friend. Rest In Peace. God bless you.”

Singer Barbra Streisand tweeted that Caan was “so talented”, while Grosse Pointe Blank star John Cusack simply wrote “wonderful actor” and Antonio Banderas said: “A great actor has left us.”

Star Trek actor Robert Picardo tweeted: “RIP James Caan. An unforgettable Sonny. A great career.”

Comedian and actor Adam Sandler, who acted with him in Bulletproof and That’s My Boy, said he “always wanted to be like him”.

He wrote: “So happy I got to know him. Never ever stopped laughing when I was around that man. His movies were best of the best. We all will miss him terribly. Thinking of his family and sending my love.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger, best-known for his role in action film The Terminator, said that Caan was an “icon” and a “legend”.

He tweeted: “He inspired everyone who has ever been in front of a camera. I was lucky to work with him and see his talent and his fantastic sense of humor firsthand.

“He was a great training partner in the gym and a true friend, and I’ll miss him.”

British filmmaker Edgar Wright tweeted: “RIP to a genuine megawatt movie star, Mr Jimmy Caan, star of not just The Godfather, but also Thief, Misery, Freebie And The Bean, Slither, Rollerball, Bottle Rocket, Gardens Of Stone, The Way Of The Gun, Honeymoon In Vegas, Elf & many more.”

On hearing the news of Caan’s death, actor and comedian Jon Lovitz tweeted: “Well, this just sucks about James Caan. I was lucky enough to work with him & be friends.

“Always a fun guy to be around. He was always supportive of my career. He even did a cameo in my tv special and got Robert Duvall to be in it. A highlight of my career. God bless James Caan.”

Filmmaker James Gunn said: “There are so many movies of his I love, The Godfather films of course being at the very top, but here are a few more I adore (Thief in particular was a Gunn family classic – I had the poster on my wall in high school).”

American actor James Urbaniak described Caan as a “real one” in a tribute to the actor.

He tweeted: “James Caan swooping in during the flashback scene at the end of The Godfather Part II is one of the all-time great star reveals. You can practically hear the audience cheering.”

Actress Jennifer Tilly said the actor always had the “funniest stories”.

She added: “Once he told me Coppola had the habit of grabbing food off his plate & eating it, so one day he made a sandwich with very hot jalapenos between two pieces of buttered bread, & waited outside Coppola’s airstream.”

Performer and broadcaster union Sag-Aftra also paid tribute to Caan.

It tweeted: “We celebrate the life and career of @James_Caan and send condolences to his family. From Brian’s Song to The Godfather to Misery and Elf, Jimmy’s celluloid legacy lives on.”

Caan starred in 2003 family comedy Elf, playing Will Ferrell’s on-screen biological father Walter Hobbs, as well as psychological thriller Misery, action film Thief, and crime hit The Gambler.

Other appearances include Honeymoon In Vegas, Bulletproof and Mickey Blue Eyes.

James Caan
James Caan (Toby Melville/PA)

The actor was married four times and is survived by his five children.

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