James Caan is an American actor. He is best-known for his role of Santino 'Sonny' Corleone in 1972's The Godfather. He also starred as Paul Sheldon in Stephen King's Misery and as "Big Ed" Deline in the television series Las Vegas.
Caan was born in The Bronx, New York City, the son of Sophie and Arthur Caan, Jewish refugees from Germany. His father was a meat dealer. Caan grew up in Sunnyside, Queens, New York City. He was educated at P.S. 150 40-01 43rd Avenue School in Queens, at the private Rhodes Preparatory School, also in New York City, and then attended Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, studying economics. Caan played college football at MSU. He later transferred to Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, but did not graduate. However, while studying at Hofstra University, he became intrigued by acting and was interviewed for, accepted to and graduated from New York City's Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, where one of his instructors was Sanford Meisner.
Caan began his acting career in television on such series as The Untouchables, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Combat!, Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, The Wide Country, Alcoa Premiere, Route 66, and Naked City. In 1964, he starred as Jewish athlete Jeff Brubaker in the episode "My Son, the All-American" of Channing, a drama about college life.
His first substantial film role was as a punk hoodlum in the 1964 thriller Lady in a Cage, which starred Olivia de Havilland. In 1965 he landed his first starring role in Howard Hawks' auto-racing drama Red Line 7000. In 1967, Caan appeared as Alan Badillion Trahern aka Mississippi in El Dorado with John Wayne and Robert Mitchum.Commonly believed to be Caan's idea, In an episode of "Las Vegas" Caan's character of "Ed Deline" used a passport to make a covert trip to the middle east, it revealed the name "A. Trahern". He had a starring role in Robert Altman's second feature film, Countdown, in 1968. In 1969, his appearance on the spy sitcom Get Smart was uncredited, billed as "Rupert of Rathskeller as Himself"; in that same year he won praise for his role as a brain-damaged football player in The Rain People directed by Francis Ford Coppola.