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The Ultimate Caan

Despite a tumultuous career and personal life, actor James Caan stays true to his ideals—and his friends.
Betsy Model
From the Print Edition:
Tyson vs. King, Jan/Feb 04

(continued from page 4)

As for perfect patience, Caan says he's working on that one. "I'm getting to have some. I'm heavily medicated," he says with a laugh. "I worry about the little stuff, I get all bent out of shape about stupid shit, you know? I'm trying not to worry about stuff. It's just stuff."

On that note, you have to question whether the medication that Caan refers to was working the day of one particular golf game.

It seems that Caan was participating in a charity golf tournament, where participants pay a large fee to play alongside a celebrity. His partner, a short business executive in his mid-60s, had paid $1,500 to play alongside Caan and, says Caan, for some inexplicable reason was being harassed by another celebrity and the celebrity's friend. He declines to name the celebrity, calling him only an "entertainer who was drunk and had some Tijuana hookers with them."

According to Caan, the entertainer and his pal ruined the first few holes of his partner's game, yelling as he'd swing and being rude and obnoxious. "They didn't know each other, I didn't have any idea what was going on. I kept my mouth shut but I [thought], 'Jesus, what the hell is going on?' Anyway, finally we got up on this one hole and it was about the sixth or seventh hole and this entertainer had like a fifty-foot putt. Now, mind you, this guy [Caan's partner] didn't say a word. Not one word. And [the entertainer] got over to this fifty-foot putt and he left it about forty feet short. And the only thing this little guy said, finally, was 'nice putt.' He said 'nice putt!

As Caan tells it, that's when the real trouble began. After yelling some obscenities, the entertainer's friend charged the hill where Caan and his partner were and threw a poorly aimed punch at the business executive. In spite of a very large audience, that, says "Killer Caan," was when he saw red.

"I just blacked out. I hit him a shot and he went down like a lump of crap, and the next thing I realized I was sitting on top of him, choking him. And it all happened so fast that I wasn't really satisfied, 'cause I hadn't said a word through the whole thing. And I just wanted more of him 'cause he was just down already, so I picked him up. I said, 'Get up. You want to fight? Get up. C'mon,' and he went, 'No, Sonny, no!'

"I was so embarrassed!…I looked around and all these people, they probably thought he wound up with cement shoes! And like, it wasn't fair, because the guy could have…killed me, I don't know. But wherever I went that weekend, if I was sitting with ten people, all these drinks would come out. They were picking up checks, picking up dinner checks, seven drinks -- it was hysterical! It's stuff like that that's kinda funny."

Caan laughs uproariously as he tells this story and there's no question that he enjoys both the story itself and his having been confused with Sonny Corleone of The Godfather. Academy Award nomination aside, the role of Sonny Corleone is his signature and he scoffs at the thought that it would bother him to have people confuse him with the character.

"Look, you only pray when you start in this business that you get to the point where people recognize you or quote you. I mean, I've got a lot of people who are, like, 'Hey, your ankle OK?' from Misery. I get that a lot. It's harmless. Or they'll say, 'Hey, don't go through that toll booth again' or 'Have the right change.' That's great! First of all, it means that they remember the picture. There's nothing not to like about it. The only thing that I get a little upset about is when I'm in a restaurant and people go like this [crooks his index finger] and beckon me with their finger. I get a little sideways. I go, 'No, you come here! What, am I a taxi or something?' "No, I hope they never stop. You know those actors who say, 'I want to be alone' or they're walking around with their friggin' bodyguards? A bodyguard! I'd never have a bodyguard. I mean, who wants to hurt me? But the point is that they have the bodyguard so that they can say, 'Leave me alone!' It's this revolving door thing. If somebody didn't recognize them, they'd have a heart attack, the bastards."

As for the occasional rumor about a return of The Godfather series, Caan says feggudaboutit. "A Godfather Four? Not by Francis, anyway. Who cares? There shouldn't have been a Godfather III."


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