James Caan has long portrayed his own roots as a "boy from Sunnyside," a Queens neighborhood across the East River from Manhattan, as not much different from the mean streets of the wiseguys. True, his father was a kosher Jewish butcher, but also a never-cry-in-public sort who "would have broke my nose," Caan says, if he didn't show up for his friends. In the family history Caan tells, his mom, Sophie, was not naive about that society, either, even if she did send him to camp in the Poconos. "My mother had coffee with this guy's mother," is how Caan puts it, "and this guy turned out to be a guy in the garbage business." Besides, that's where he learned to box, at the camp.
As Sonny Corleone in the first two "Godfather" pictures and as Bears running back Brian Piccolo in the biopic "Brian's Song," Caan established himself as a top acting talent. But his personal life, and career, has had significant ups and downs.
Caan brings up the highlights on his own: the years partying on coke and Quaaludes; the pattern of his four marriages and five children, "pregnant-married, pregnant-married, pregnant-married ...," the years, after the death of his sister from leukemia, when he quit making films to become this "mad coach," teaching baseball and other sports to boys, including his oldest son, Scott, sometimes by throwing fastball after fastball at the kid; then too often finding himself at the wrong place at the wrong time, whether it was the Wilshire Boulevard apartment where a wannabe actor fell from the balcony to his death or the drug neighborhood where Caan pulled a gun on a rapper. "Just destructive, stupid stuff," he says.
Caan credits Rob Reiner's Castle Rock production company with rescuing him from the void after the self-described drug-addled lost years during which his name occasionally found its way from the show-biz columns to the police blotter. "Alan Horn, Rob Reiner, those guys at Castle Rock were really great to me," he says. Reiner cast him in "Misery" as the best-selling writer taken prisoner by Kathy Bates; then he played the shady, cigar-smoking gambler in Andrew Bergman's very funny "Honeymoon in Vegas."
Most recently, he starred on NBC's series "Las Vegas" as the tough-guy head of a casino and as the straight man to Will Ferrell's man-child in 2003's "Elf."
|1972||Best Supporting Actor||The Godfather||Nomination|