He was tough, he was sexy, and he was one of the most charismatic movies stars of the 1970s — he was James Caan, your go-to guy when you wanted someone who could be flinty yet charming, smooth yet volatile.
A Bronx-born, Queens-raised actor who claimed he was the “only New York Jewish cowboy,” the former Michigan State football player got bit by the acting bug when he transferred to Hofstra University, and was already making the bit-player rounds on TV shows (Dr. Kildare, Combat!, Route 66, The Alfred Hitchcock Show) in the early ’60s.
After director Howard Hawks cast him in two movies — Red Line 7000 (1965) and El Dorado (1966) — Caan started to attract attention as the next big up-and-comer. It wasn’t until the one-two punch of a TV movie about a gridiron hero and Paramount picture based on a bestseller about gangsters, respectively, that he became a bona fide star.
Even when he showed up in his later years, usually as a crusty old guy for added color or the human embodiment of AARP-age machismo, Caan was still the kind of performer who stopped you dead in your tracks.
James Caan, Robert Duvall, Talia Shire and John Martino talk Marlon Brando, including his acting trick that screwed the rest of them up; bitterness over a cut scene; nailing a dangerous moment in one take; and a loathing for cannolis; among much more.
James Caan was so mad that Francis Ford Coppola cut one of his beefier scenes from The Godfather, he walked out of a screening.
Fifty years later, he’s still irked.Based on the best-selling book by the late Mario Puzo, The Godfather debuted in theaters on March 24, 1972.
Immediately receiving universal acclaim, the Paramount Pictures film was, for a period, the highest-grossing movie of all time, hauling in $243.8 million worldwide, which adjusted for inflation equals $1.6 billion.
Novice Italian American director Coppola, then 32, helmed the Mafia picture for producer Albert S. Ruddy; tales of its uphill production, fraught with one issue after another — such as casting the brilliant, but notoriously difficult Marlon Brando — are so epic, they’re getting a limited series treatment on Paramount+ titled The Offer.
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 50 years since Francis Ford Coppola’s”The Godfather” made moviegoers an offer they couldn’t refuse.
The film was a sensation when it debuted in March 24, 1972, setting box office records, revitalizing the career of Marlon Brando, launching the likes of Al Pacino, Robert Duvall and James Caan onto the A-list, and scoring an Oscar for Best Picture.
But things could have gone very differently. Coppola, an up-and-coming director tasked with bringing Mario Puzo’s best-selling novel to the screen, was hardly the studio’s first choice for the task (Paramount production chief Robert Evans preferred Costa-Gavras).
And things didn’t improve when cameras started rolling, with Paramount openly flirting with firing the filmmaker at several key points.
When The Godfather premiered 50 years ago, people knew it was sensational, controversial, precedent-shattering, a masterpiece even.
But they couldn’t know what we know now: It was a bridge between old Hollywood and new.
The film industry had been struggling all through the 1960s, a rough decade for big-screen entertainment as color television siphoned off much of what was left of the moviegoing audience.
Cinemas had tried everything they could think of to compete. They’d widened screens, adopted stereophonic sound, even experimented with 3-D glasses, but American moviegoing, having peaked in the 1930s, had dropped precipitously with the advent of home viewing.