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James Caan Dead: ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Elf’ Star Dies at 82

Goodbye to a film legend. James Caan has died at the age of 82.

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The Oscar nominee’s family announced the news in a statement shared via Twitter on Thursday, July 7. “It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Jimmy on the evening of July 6,” the statement read. “The family appreciates the outpouring of love and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”

James Caan Dead: 'The Godfather' and Elf Star Dies at 82
Dan Steinberg/BEI/Shutterstock

A cause of death was not immediately revealed.

Caan, who was born in the Bronx in 1940, was best known for his portrayal of Santino “Sonny” Corleone in 1972’s The Godfather. His performance earned him a best supporting actor nomination at the Academy Awards as well as the Golden Globes. He reprised the role in 1974’s The Godfather Part II, making a cameo at end of the film.

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The Emmy nominee began his career in off-Broadway plays and TV shows before making the jump to the big screen in 1963 with an uncredited role in Irma la Douce. His rise to fame began in earnest in 1969, when he appeared in Francis Ford Coppola‘s The Rain People, which also featured his future Godfather costar Robert Duvall.

The following year, he starred alongside Billy Dee Williams in the TV adaptation of Brian’s Song, which garnered him his first Emmy nomination. The film became such a massive hit that Columbia Pictures eventually rereleased it in theaters.

In 1972, Caan starred in The Godfather, Coppola’s now-iconic mob drama about the fictional Corleone crime family. Reflecting on the film’s impact for its 50th anniversary, the Rollerball actor said he was thrilled to be part of a project that’s stood the test of time.

“I’m happy there’s something they can remember about me,” Caan told Collider in April. “I’m very proud of it, and I’m very proud of Francis. The cast was great. And that just added to my one big thing about making a good movie. If you get people together that like one another and genuinely like each other and have a good time, invariably the movie is good and better. And I think audiences can tell that they like each other while they’re watching the film.”

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While Caan is well known for his “tough guy” roles, he gained a new generation fans with his appearance in the 2003 holiday comedy Elf, in which he played the biological father of Will Ferrell‘s character, Buddy the Elf.

The Mickey Blue Eyes star continued acting into his 70s and 80s, appearing in films including Sicilian Vampire, Undercover Grandpa and Out of Blue. In 2012, he starred alongside his son Scott Caan in an episode of Hawaii Five-0. His final movie credit came in 2021’s Queen Bees, a rom-com that also starred Ellen Burstyn, Jane Curtin and Ann-Margret.

Caan was married four times over the years: to Dee Jay Mathis from 1961 to 1966, to Sheila Marie Ryan from 1976 to 1977, to Ingrid Hajek from 1990 to 1995 and to Linda Stokes from 1995 to 2017. He is survived by daughter Tara, 57, and sons Scott, 45, Alexander, 31, James, 26, and Jacob, 23.

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