James Caan: 10 memorable roles

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James CaanImage source, Getty Images

James Caan, the Oscar-nominated star of The Godfather, Misery and Elf, has died at the age of 82.

Born in the Bronx in 1940, he emerged as a virile leading man in the 1970s. In the 90s, he returned to the limelight as a grizzled character actor capable of lending both gravitas and menace to a wide range of roles.

Here are some of his most memorable screen performances.

El Dorado (1967)

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Caan (left) with John Wayne in El Dorado

Caan was just 27 when he played knife-throwing gambler Mississippi in Howard Hawks' Western.

Yet he more than held his own against his seasoned co-stars John Wayne and Robert Mitchum, even if he did have to wear three-inch lifts in his shoes.

Brian's Song (1971)

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Caan was initially reluctant to make this acclaimed TV movie about Brian Piccolo, the Chicago Bears football player struck down by terminal cancer at the age of 26.

But his decision to make it was vindicated when he was nominated for a Primetime Emmy alongside co-star Billy Dee Williams.

The Godfather (1972)

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Caan, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and John Cazale in The Godfather

Caan's role as the volatile Santino "Sonny" Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's epic portrait of organised crime saw him receive his one and only Oscar nomination.

Caan briefly reprised the role two years later in a flashback scene near the end of The Godfather: Part II.

The Gambler (1974)

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The actor considered this drama about a literature professor battling a gambling addiction one of his favourite films, despite having clashed with director Karel Reisz during shooting.

The film, loosely based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's 1866 novella, was remade in 2014 with Mark Wahlberg in the lead.

Funny Lady (1975)

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With Barbra Streisand in Funny Lady

Caan was cast opposite Barbra Streisand as showman Billy Rose - the third husband of vaudeville entertainer Fanny Brice - in this musical sequel to 1968's Funny Girl.

Not only did it see him land a Golden Globe nomination, but it also saw him receive a gold record for his contributions to the soundtrack.

Rollerball (1975)

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The athleticism Caan displayed as a student at Michigan State University came in handy for his role as Jonathan E in Norman Jewison's futuristic thriller, set in a world where sport is literally a matter of life and death.

A Bridge Too Far (1977)

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Caan had a relatively small role in Richard Attenborough's World War II epic, but still made his mark as Staff Sergeant Eddie Dohun, a US soldier who refuses to let a comrade die on his watch, even if it means pulling a gun on an unhelpful medic.

Misery (1990)

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Kathy Bates may have won an Oscar for her work in this Stephen King adaptation, but it was Cann's novelist Paul Sheldon that audiences felt for as he became a bedbound captive of his "number one fan".

Mickey Blue Eyes (1999)

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Hugh Grant, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Caan in Mickey Blues Eyes

Caan's Corleone past made him ideal to play Frank Vitale, a New York Mafioso who is less than impressed when his daughter (Jeanne Tripplehorn) gets engaged to a British auctioneer (Hugh Grant).

"We got on very well," said Grant later. "My theory is that he fell slightly in love with me."

Elf (2003)

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Will Ferrell, Caan and Jon Favreau at the New York Premiere of Elf

A new generation warmed to Caan when he was cast as Will Ferrell's father in this seasonal comedy about a human raised in the North Pole who travels to New York to find his biological dad.

Jon Favreau's fantasy also reunited the actor with Ed Asner, with whom he had appeared in El Dorado 36 years earlier.

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