Born: 26 March 1940
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York
Best known as: Sonny Corleone in The Godfather
Tough-guy leading man and sometime supporting player James Caan is best-known for his role as hot-tempered Sonny Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather (1972). Caan grew up in Queens, New York and got into acting after a brief flirtation with college football. During the 1960s he appeared in small roles in TV shows and films, while at the same time participating in professional rodeo competitions. By the end of the 1960s he was getting good roles in films such as El Dorado (1966, starring John Wayne) and Coppola's The Rain People (1969, with Robert Duvall). The Godfather earned Caan an Oscar nomination and came on the heels of his Emmy-nominated performance in the homoerotic tearjerker Brian's Song (1971). During the 1970s he was a box office star who made a string of misfires, including Freebie and the Bean (1974, opposite Alan Arkin), Funny Lady (1975, starring Barbra Streisand), Rollerball (1975) and The Killer Elite (1975). After bouncing back in the Michael Mann thriller Thief (1981), he dropped out of sight for several years before returning in Coppola's Gardens of Stone (1987). Caan has since explained his rocky patch as a product of financial disaster, drug addiction and the death of his sister. During the 1990s he was back on the scene, with notable roles in the film version of Stephen King's Misery (1990), the indie favorite Bottle Rocket (1996, with Owen Wilson) and the comedy Mickey Blue Eyes (1999, with Hugh Grant). Since then he has appeared in the movies The Yards (2000, with Mark Wahlberg), Dogville (2003, with Nicole Kidman) and Elf (2003, starring Will Ferrell), and starred in the TV series Las Vegas (2003-07).
Extra credit: His son Scott Caan is an actor who has appeared in Varsity Blues (1999) and Ocean's Eleven (2001)... Often mistaken for an Italian-American, Caan is actually of German-Jewish heritage... A horse and rodeo enthusiast, Caan has the nickname "The Jewish Cowboy"... James Caan is a member of the OpenFilm.com board, a distributor for independent film projects.
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