James Caan, Macho Leading Man of Hollywood, Dies at 82

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James Caan, the brawny star who played Sonny Corleone in The Godfather and a rough-and-tumble athlete in Rollerball but had the self-assurance to showcase a sensitive side during his long career, has died. He was 82.

Caan died Wednesday night in Los Angeles, his rep Arnold Robinson told The Hollywood Reporterconfirming a post on the actor’s Twitter account. He nor the family would reveal a cause of death.

Caan will best be remembered for his explosive performance as Sonny in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972). Mesmerizing as the volatile and confrontational eldest son and heir apparent to his family’s criminal empire, he earned an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.

Caan almost didn’t get to play the part that would become his signature role. Paramount originally cast him as younger brother Michael and Carmine Caridi as Sonny. But Coppola, who had directed Caan in The Rain People (1969), insisted that only he could do justice to the character.

Once the studio agreed, the Bronx-born actor embraced the opportunity. “What f—ing transformation? Obviously, I grew up in the neighborhood. I didn’t have to work on an accent or anything,” he told Vanity Fair in a 2009 interview.

Read more at The Hollywood Reporter