Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola among stars paying tribute to James Caan

The director of The Godfather films, Francis Ford Coppola, and star Talia Shire remembered the “good, kind and tremendously talented” James Caan after his death at the age of 82.

Caan, best known for his Oscar-nominated performance as Sonny Corleone in the Godfather films alongside Hollywood actors Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton, died Wednesday night, his family confirmed.

In a statement given to the PA news agency, Coppola said: “Jimmy was someone who lingered through my life longer and closer than any movie figure I have ever met.

“From those earlier times working together on The Rain People and through all the milestones of my life, his movies and the many great roles he played will never be forgotten.

“He will always be my old friend from Sunnyside, my collaborator and one of the funniest people I have ever met.”

Shire, who played Connie Corleone in the crime saga films, said: “James was a good man, a kind man, a family man and a tremendously gifted man whose great talent will always be loved and remembered. My prayers go out to his family that he treasured so much.”

The veteran actor’s other notable credits include playing cancer-stricken Chicago Bears football player Brian Piccolo in the sports drama Brian’s Song, which saw him earn an Emmy nomination in 1972.

Brian’s Song co-star and Star Wars actor Billy Dee Williams paid tribute to the actor on Thursday, sharing a photo on Twitter of Caan smiling while sitting on his lap.

He wrote: “Teammates and friends all the way. RIP Jimmy,” with a broken heart emoji.

Actor Gary Sinise, who played Lt. Dan Taylor in Forrest Gump, tweeted: “Very sad to hear the news that James Caan has died. With a broken heart for his family and his friends.

“Wonderful to meet him and call him a friend. Jimmy was very supportive of the Gary Sinise Foundation and my work with our veterans. He will be missed. Thank you my friend. Rest in peace. God bless you.”

Singer Barbra Streisand tweeted that Caan was “so talented,” while Grosse Pointe Blank star John Cusack simply wrote “wonderful actor” and Antonio Banderas said, “A great actor has left us.”

Star Trek actor Robert Picardo tweeted: “RIP James Caan. An unforgettable Sonny. A great race.”

Comedian and actor Adam Sandler also paid tribute, saying he “always wanted to be like him.”

He wrote: “So happy to have met him. I never stopped laughing when I was around that man. His movies were the best of the best. We will all miss him terribly. Thinking of his family and sending my love.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger, best known for his role in the action movie The Terminator, called Caan an “icon” and a “legend.”

He tweeted: “He inspired everyone who has ever been in front of a camera. I was lucky enough to work with him and see firsthand his talent and his fantastic sense of humor.

“He was a great training partner in the gym and a true friend, and he will be missed.”

British filmmaker Edgar Wright tweeted: “RIP a true megawatt movie star, Mr. Jimmy Caan, star of not only The Godfather, but also Thief, Misery, Freebie And The Bean, Slither, Rollerball, Bottle Rocket, Gardens Of Stone, The Way. Of The Gun, Honeymoon In Vegas, Elf and many more”.

Upon hearing the news of Caan’s death, actor and comedian Jon Lovitz tweeted, “Well this James Caan thing sucks. I was lucky to work with him and be friends.

“He’s always a fun guy to be with. He always supported my career. He even made a cameo appearance in my TV special and got Robert Duvall to appear in it. A highlight of my career. God bless James Caan.”

Filmmaker James Gunn said, “There are so many of his movies that I love, the Godfather movies of course are at the top, but here are a few more that I adore (Thief in particular was a Gunn family classic; I had the poster on my wall in high school).”

American actor James Urbaniak described Caan as “real” in a tribute to the actor.

He tweeted: “James Caan showing up during the flashback scene at the end of The Godfather Part 2 is one of the greatest breakout stars of all time. You can practically hear the audience cheering.”

Actress Jennifer Tilly said that the actor always had the “funniest stories”.

She added: “He told me once that Coppola had a habit of taking food off his plate and eating it, so one day he made a sandwich with piping hot jalapenos between two pieces of buttered bread and waited out of the draft of Coppola”.

The Sag-Aftra artists and broadcasters union also paid tribute to Caan.

He tweeted: “We celebrate the life and career of @James_Caan and send our condolences to his family. From Brian’s Song to The Godfather to Misery to Elf, Jimmy’s celluloid legacy lives on.”

Caan starred in the 2003 family comedy Elf, playing Will Ferrell’s on-screen biological father Walter Hobbs, as well as the psychological thriller Misery, the action film Thief and the crime hit The Gambler.

Other appearances include Honeymoon In Vegas, Bulletproof, and Mickey Blue Eyes.

James Caan (Toby Melville/PA)

The actor was married four times and is survived by his five children.

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