James Caan: 'Godfather' Legend's Cause of Death Revealed
James Caan's cause of death has been revealed.
According to a death certificate obtained by TMZ, the acting great was felled by several heart problems, dying of a heart attack.
The star of movie classics like "The Godfather," "Misery," and "Elf" suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure. His primary cause of death: a heart attack.
He was 82.
Caan died on July 6 at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in L.A., and was buried in Eden Memorial Park.
"It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Jimmy on the evening of July 6," his Twitter account announced when he died. "The family appreciates the outpouring of love and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time."
As did all of his tweets, the announcement concluded with: "End of tweet."
Born March 26, 1940, in the Bronx, Caan was an up-and-comer when he landed the role of Sonny in Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 hit "The Godfather," which is frequently cited as the greatest film ever made.
He had appeared in such films as the 1966 western "El Dorado" with screen legends John Wayne and Robert Mitchum, Robert Altman's "Countdown" (1967), had worked with Coppola in 1969's "The Rain People," and starred in the title role of "Brian's Song" (1971), one of the first made-for-TV movies, which touchingly documented the friendship between Black football player Gale Sayers and his doomed white teammate, Brian Piccolo, who died of cancer.
But it was Sonny Corleone that gave Caan his chance to show what he could do, a character with a short fuse who died as spectacularly as he lived. The performance was so convincing he was often mistaken for Italian; his parents were Jews who had immigrated from Germany, raising him in Queens, New York.
After the acting bug bit, Caan worked off-Broadway and on TV, making his debut on "Naked City" in 1961 and appearing on such series as "Route 66" (1961), "The Untouchables" (1962), "Dr. Kildare" (1963), and "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" (1964).
His Broadway debut came in "Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole" (1961), and he saw himself on the big screen for the first time in an uncredited part in "Irma La Douce" (1963) ahead of a bigger part as a hood in the campy — and gory — thriller "Lady in a Cage" (1964) opposite Olivia de Havilland.
Continuing to surround himself with big names from the Golden Age of Hollywood, his first starring role in a feature was for Howard Hawks, in "Red Line 7000" (1965).
After "The Godfather" became a sensation — and the actor was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe, and reprised his role for a flashback scene in "The Godfather: Part II" (1974) — Caan had his pick of parts, and appeared in such films as "Slither" (1973), "Cinderella Liberty" (1973), "The Gambler" (1974), "Freebie and the Bean" (1974), "Funny Lady" (1975) with Barbra Streisand, "Rollerball" (1975), Mel Brooks' "Silent Movie" (1976), "A Bridge Too Far" (1977), "Comes a Horseman" (1978), and "Chapter Two" (1979), some of the most popular and/or critically acclaimed films of the decade.
He hit another critical high as the star of the low-key, neo-noir "Thief" (1981) by Michael Mann. It was his second favorite James Caan film.
Still, Caan was famously choosy, turning down roles in everything from "M*A*S*H" (1970) to "Star Wars" (1977) to "Superman" (1978) — for the latter he "didn't want to wear the cape" — and his output slowed a bit in the '80s, a process exacerbated as he battled depression over his sister's untimely death from leukemia.
He had a comeback of sorts with "Gardens of Stone" (1987) for Coppola and appeared in the hits "Alien Nation" (1988) and "Dick Tracy" (1990).
With the release in 1990 of "Misery," directed by Rob Reiner from Stephen King's book, Caan achieved his second biggest hit and notched another unforgettable role, this time as a writer physically hobbled by a crazed fan (Kathy Bates, in an Oscar-winning performance) who simply didn't like how he was planning to end a cherished story.
Other films included "For the Boys" (1991) with Bette Midler, "Honeymoon in Vegas" (1992), Wes Anderson's debut "Bottle Rocket" (1996), "Eraser" (1996), "The Yards" (2000), "The Way of the Gun" (2000), "Dogville" (2003), and the massive hit "Elf" (2003).
Though rarely on TV after he became a movie star, Caan was on four seasons of "Las Vegas" (2003-2007), made a guest appearance on son Scott Caan's "Hawaii Five-0" TV series in 2012, returned to mobster mode in the Starz drama "Magic City" (2013), and also appeared in the short-lived "Back in the Game" (2013).
He lent his voice to "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" (2009) and its sequel (2013).
He worked steadily in films, with the 2021 comedy about aging "Queen Bees" (2021) his last release before he died. Another film, "Fast Charlie," is thought to be coming in 2023.
Married and divorced four times, Caan is survived by a daughter and four sons.