Caan, who also had roles in “Misery,” “Thief” and “Rollerball,” received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of a mafia family’s eldest son in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 classic “The Godfather.”
“It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Jimmy on the evening of July 6,” Caan’s family said in a tweet posted to his account.
Caan’s manager confirmed the news to AFP.
“Jimmy was one of the greatest. Not only was he one of the best actors our business has ever seen, he was funny, loyal, caring and beloved,” wrote Matt DelPiano.
Caan started as an actor in 1960s Hollywood, with roles in films by acclaimed directors including Billy Wilder (“Irma La Douce”), Howard Hawks (“El Dorado”) and Coppola (“The Rain People.”) He had a breakthrough television role in 1970 American football drama “Brian’s Song,” portraying dying gridiron star Brian Piccolo.
But his turn as Sonny Corleone, whose slaying in a hail of bullets at a toll booth became one of the defining scenes in Coppola’s “The Godfather,” established him as a major actor.
Briefly the highest grossing film of all time, “The Godfather” won three Oscars including best picture and best actor for Marlon Brando.
Caan was among three cast members nominated for best supporting actor, along with Al Pacino and Robert Duvall.
“Jimmy was someone who stretched through my life longer and closer than any motion picture figure I’ve ever known,” said Coppola in a statement to AFP.
“His films 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’ve ever known.”
Caan reprised his role in a small cameo for “The Godfather Part II.”
Asked in 2010 if he ever gets tired of talking about “The Godfather,” Caan replied: “No. I thank God for it.”
He also joked that he “would have refused to die” in the first film had he known that “The Godfather” would receive a sequel.