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Legendary actor James Caan dead at 82

James Caan, the legendary film actor best known for his role as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather film franchise, has passed away at the age of 82.

The news was shared on Caan’s official social media accounts. “It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Jimmy on the evening of July 6,” the statement reads. “The family appreciates the outpouring of love and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”

Caan began his career as a supporting actor in Westerns like The Glory Guys and El Dorado. In 1970, Caan played the role of Brian Piccolo in the television film Brian’s Song, which led to an Emmy nomination and a greatly increased public profile. A year prior, Caan starred in the film The Rain People and kept in touch with the film’s director, Francis Ford Coppola.

In 1972, Caan starred in his most iconic role as the hotheaded eldest brother of the Corleone family, Sonny. Caan was originally cast as middle brother Michael Corleone, but when Coppola insisted that Al Pacino play the role, Caan was cast as Sonny instead, beating out potential actors including Anthony Perkins and Robert De Niro. Caan would later reprise his role in a cameo for The Godfather Part II.

Caan’s performance as Sonny remained his most recognised role, landing him his only Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor along with co-stars Pacino and Robert Duvall.

The actor continued to land high-profile film roles: for his roles in 1974’s The Gambler and 1975’s Funny Lady, Caan was nominated for Golden Globe Awards. Other notable films in Caan’s filmography include Rollerball, Thief, Misery, Bottle Rocket, Dogtown, and Elf. In 1980, Caan directed his sole feature film, Hide in Plain Sight, in which he also starred.

Caan is survived by four ex-wives – Dee Jay Mattis, Sheila Ryan, Ingrid Hajek and Linda Stokes – along with five children: daughter Tara and sons Scott, Alexander, James and Jacob.