James Caan Dies at 82: Here Are the Projects He Had in the Works at Time of Passing

by Emily Morgan

James Caan, the legendary actor who played Sonny Corleone in The Godfather and an athlete in Rollerball, has died. He was 82. At the time of his death, the icon had several projects in the works. 

According to his IMDb, Caan had the film Fast Charlie in post-production. In the crime-thriller, set to hit theaters on March 17, 2023, he played the role of Stan. Per the website, the synopsis reads: “When his aging mob boss is whacked, Charlie Swift, a loyal friend and hired gun, will stop at nothing to bring down the new crew coming up that took him out.” The action movie is also based on the crime novel Gun Monkeys. 

In addition, Caan was also working on two other films at the time of his death. He was starring in Redemption and Acre Beyond the Rye. According to his rep, Caan passed away on Wednesday night via a post on the actor’s Twitter account. No other details of his death were immediately available.

His fans will remember him best for his outstanding performance as Sonny in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather in 1972. Thanks to his stellar portrayal as the volatile eldest son of the mob family, he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting actor.

However, Caan almost didn’t get to play the part that would make him a household name. Instead, the studio initially cast him as younger brother Michael and Carmine Caridi as Sonny. 

Coppola, who had also directed Caan in The Rain People in 1969, insisted that Caan take on the role. Once Paramount agreed, the New York actor fit right into the role. 

“What f—ing transformation? Obviously, I grew up in the neighborhood. I didn’t have to work on an accent or anything,” he said in a 2009 interview about growing up in the Bronx and transferring his upbringing into his role as Sonny. 

James Caan remembered for his lengthy, terrific career as an actor

Sadly, James Caan gave up acting in the ’80s as he struggled with losing his sister to leukemia. As a result, he was absent from the big screen from 1983 to 1986.

“I had enough money, I thought, and I was coaching kids full-time. Soccer, Little League, football, basketball,” Caan said about his acting hiatus. 

“Working with kids, I didn’t have to wait six months for them to cut it and edit it and put music to it. As a coach, right in front of my eyes, this creative thing was happening. I was enjoying it, and I figured if a movie came along that I really felt passionate about, I would do it. And then, quite honestly, I woke up one morning and found I had lost all my money, and I was busted, just like that — overnight.”

However, his former director and longtime friend, Coppola, would bring him back to the craft. He encouraged him to play U.S. Army Sgt. Clell Hazard in the Vietnam War drama Gardens of Stone in 1987. 

The production suffered when Coppola’s son Gian-Carlo died in a boating accident, but it paved the way for Caan’s comeback. With this newfound resurgence, he took on roles in Alien Nation, Dick Tracy, and Misery. He stayed busy acting for the next 30 years, alternating between film and television work.