Direct word from James Caan

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James Caan says he doesn’t like to swear. He swears it’s true!

Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz asked the actor, “So let me ask you a question…”

“You’ve been giving me questions all day!”

The only four letter word he really opposes his fame. What James Caan wants is respect.

” What does it do ? Mankiewicz asked.

“It makes you feel good, man!” I want a little respect. I play ball, I want respect, you know? That’s all.

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Actor James Caan with Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz.

CBS News


Over the course of a 60-year career, Caan has definitely earned it, playing one memorable role after another and managing not to be labeled – Sonny, Don Corleone’s mad son in “The Godfather”; a dying football player in “Brian’s Song”; a novelist held captive in “Misery”; and Will Ferrell’s absent father in “Elf”.

“I always fought to never be the same person,” said Caan. “I mean, the fun of being an actor is being someone else for three months, you know?”

Caan has played some memorable roles, but hang out with him, and you get the feeling that the most interesting character is right in front of you – the New Yorker born in 1940 in Queens. He is from Sunnyside, “just over the 59th Street Bridge a bit”.

“What kind of place is this?

“Well, let me tell you something: there’s a tree over there, and we used to say, ‘I’ll meet you in the forest, okay? It was “the forest”.

The school gave Caan an education; the streets taught him lessons that he has remembered all his life. “The most important thing is that you learn to win and to lose. And you’ve learned who to push and who not to push.”

He pushed a lot of people, including himself, as a 16-year-old freshman football player at Michigan State University. Homesick, and too little for the Big 10, he was transferred to Hofstra, less than 40 miles from Queens, where the actor bug struck.

“I went to the Neighborhood Playhouse and got accepted there,” he said. “They took me right away; I was supposed to have three interviews, and I only had one.”

At 20, he landed guest roles in television series – shows like “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour”. Then, a big break at 26, playing an arrogant sidekick to a couple of men he admired, literally – John Wayne and Robert Mitchum – in the 1966 western, “El Dorado”.

“First off, I had elevators in my fucking shoes,” Caan said. “I mean, Mitchum is 6’2”, Wayne’s 6’4 “, so I have the lifts in my shoes.”

Five years later, “Brian’s Song”, a TV movie starring Caan as Brian Piccolo, a terminally ill football player. Billy Dee Wiliams played Gale Sayers, Piccolo’s best friend. Thirty-six million people listened to:


Brian’s Song – End Scene through
Potential on Youtube

Mankiewicz asked, “I guess you’ve been approached by 175 men aged, say 55-75, who come up to you and say, ‘I’ve only cried at one movie in my life…’ “

“‘Brian’s Song’! Yeah, I cried too!”

“And not a lot of movies in the early ’70s where you have the white character and the black character in a totally equal friendship.”

“It was good, it was very rewarding,” said Caan. “Because I hope a lot, you know, the kids got it, you know? “

In 1972, director Francis Ford Coppola called and made Caan an offer he couldn’t refuse: to play Sonny, the angry Corleone’s eldest son in “The Godfather.”

Caan’s inspiration came from an unlikely source: “I was thinking of my friend, Don Rickles,” he said. “I told everyone, you know, and I started laughing like Don Rickles. It wasn’t, like, imitate Don Rickles… It was having that, that motivation, that thing, you know? It was like, yeah, I was just locked in there. “

He also improvised a lot … like the way Sonny deals with an FBI photographer on his sister’s wedding day:


The Godfather – Santino and the FBI through
Bib48_MovieClips on Youtube

“I grabbed that camera, smashed the camera. And I looked, and in my neighborhood, I realized I had done something wrong. And I pulled out 20 and threw it on the street. . paid for that!”

After “The Godfather”, Caan was in demand, and he received praise for “Cinderella Liberty”, “The Gambler”, “Rollerball” and his favorite, “Thief”:


James Caan stands up to Mob Boss from “Thief” 1981 through
Unexpected life on Youtube

But by the early 1980s, a decade of stardom had taken its toll. Caan’s behavior was erratic… he was addicted to drugs… and fell into depression after his sister died of leukemia.

“I had a bad fight with cocaine for a little while,” he said. “I lost my sister when it happened. And she was like, I don’t know, when I lost her, I couldn’t, I couldn’t take it, I didn’t know what to do.”

Caan didn’t care much about Hollywood after “Thief”. Over the next six years, he directed one movie (“Kiss Me Goodbye”) and coached his son Scott’s Little League team.

When he wanted to return, his friend Rob Reiner threw him a lifeline at the end of 1989. Reiner was to direct “Misery” from a Stephen King story, starring Kathy Bates:


Misery (2/12) Movie CLIP – Blasphemy disturbs Annie (1990) HD through
Video clips on Youtube

“I had some great people like Rob Reiner and those guys, God bless them. They were big winners for me.”

“This movie, which let everyone know, ‘Oh, yeah, wait, James Caan!’,” Mankiewicz said.

“I do not know.”

“You were wonderful!”

“Yeah, with Kathy.

“Misery” was a big hit for Caan. An underrated comedy, “Honeymoon in Vegas,” arrived two years later. It proved Caan had a lighter side, which led to “Elf” a decade later with Will Ferrell.

“So I said to Will, he said, ‘You wanna do’ Elf ‘?’ I said, “I can’t do it. I’ll do a photo titled “Elk”, but I won’t … “

“You said, ‘No’, right on the Title?

“Yes.”

Fortunately, Ferrell finally convinced him.


Elf (2/5) Movie CLIP – Buddy meets his father (2003) HD through
Video clips on Youtube

His son, Scott Caan, convinced his father to play the guest role on his hit TV show “Hawaii Five-0”.

Caan, who has been married and divorced four times, enjoys working, but not as much as he loves his five children.

Mankiewicz asked, “Would you like your other kids to get into the business as well? ”

“To do whatever they want, yeah!”

It’s a credo that paid off for Caan… and this tough guy with a soft heart isn’t ready to say goodbye to Hollywood: “I want to do a good job. I’m frustrated, I would love to make a real character. ”

“So why do you want to keep working? Mankiewicz asked. “Like, take it easy? You’re James Caan!”

“I can’t ‘take it easy’,” he replied. “I love working, I love working with good people. I have more fun when I work, and I laugh a lot – and I get respect, too, sometimes!”


Story produced by Gabriel Falcon. Publisher: Joseph Frandino.


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