He had played one of the Corleone sons in the mythical Godfather, and a sequestered writer in the distressing Misery. American actor James Caan died at 82 after a long career where he played for the greatest directors. “It is with great sadness that we inform you of Jimmy’s passing on the evening of July 6th,” his family said in a tweet posted on Caan’s account. His manager, Matt DelPiano, confirmed the news to AFP. Born in New York, in the Bronx district, in 1940, within a family of Jewish immigrants from Germany, James Caan had started his career by small roles in Hollywood in the 1960s, notably in Irma la Douce by Billy Wilder (1963), or The People in the Rain, by Francis Ford Coppola (1969). Three years later, the great American director gave him the one of his most famous roles, in the first part of The Godfather trilogy, an epic saga about the Italian-American mafia that marked the history of cinema and celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. James Caan plays Sonny Corleone, the eldest son of “don” Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), and his brutal assassination in a hail of bullets at a toll booth has become one of the film’s most defining moments. The role earned him an Oscar nomination.”Old Friend””I still think if I had the change that day, I could have become a lot richer,” he joked years later , in reference to his death at the toll booth while waiting for his change. “If I had known they were going to shoot The Godfather 2 [dans lequel il a eu un petit rôle pour un flash-back, ndlr], I would have refused to die”, he had quipped, judging that this film had been a “blessing” for him. “Jimmy was someone who was part of my life longer and more closely than any other figure in the cinema I have ever known”, reacted Francis Ford Coppola, hailing in a statement to AFP his “old friend” and “one of the funniest people I have ever known”. “Jimmy was my fictional brother and lifelong friend. It’s hard to imagine that he is no longer of this world, he was so full of life and daring,” said Al Pacino, who played the role of Michael Corleone, Sonny’s little brother. Robert De Niro, who also starred in The Godfather saga, said he was “very, very sad to hear of Jimmy’s passing”.As an echo of this role in The Godfather, James Caan had been first called as a witness in 1985 at a mafia trial in New York, because he had known one of the defendants, a member of the Colombo family, in his childhood. He then testified, still in New York, in 1992 in another trial, where he presented himself as the best friend of a reputable member of the Bonanno mafia family still on the dock. Prolific After The Godfather, his career continued with roles in other films that have remained classics, such as Rollerball (1975), named after this violent sport practiced in a futuristic society, or Le Solitaire (1981), the pr st feature film by Michael Mann. One of his other major roles was offered to him in Misery (1990), a grueling film, adapted from the novel by Stephen King. He masterfully plays the writer Paul Sheldon, kidnapped in the mountains of Colorado by an evil fan played by Kathy Bates – who received an Oscar for his performance. “His films were the best of the best”, paid tribute to him in a tweeted New York actor and screenwriter Adam Sandler. “I loved him very much. I always wanted to be like him. I’m so happy to have known him. I never stopped laughing when I was with this man,” he added. Prolific actor, who had starred in several dozen films over six decades, including Bottle Rocket, Wes Anderson’s first feature film (1996), The Yards by James Gray (2000), Dogville by Lars Von Trier (2003), or who had lent his voice in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009), James Caan had been married four times and had five children.