James Caan, whose remarkable performances in The Godfather, Elf and Misery made him a screen icon, has had his cause of death revealed by the Los Angeles County Coroner.
The 82-year-old Caan died earlier this month of a heart attack and coronary artery disease earlier, according to the county report.
His family announced his death earlier in July on the actor’s official Twitter account.
“It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Jimmy on the evening of July 6,” the tweet reads. “The family appreciates the outpouring of love and heartfelt condolences and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”
After a decade in the business, Caan shot to fame in the early 1970s with back-to-back signature roles. He earned an Emmy nom as the real-life cancer-stricken Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo in ABC’s Brian’s Song, alongside Billy Dee Williams as fellow Bears running back Gale Sayers. The heart-rending tale of the hard-forged friendship among the NFL’s first interracial roommates was the most-watched TV movie ever at that point, with a 32.9 rating/48 share and went on to win five Emmys including Outstanding Single Program – Drama or Comedy.
In a 2011 interview with the Television Academy Foundation (watch it here), Emmy-winning Brian’s Song screenwriter William Blinn said: “Jimmy’s Jimmy. He always had a cockiness, a confidence. Very competitive. Edgy, in the best sense of the word. But he’s a guy with all the pluses and minuses you can have.”
Caan followed that success with his best-known role: the hotheaded, violent and vengeful Sonny Corleone, eldest son of Don Corleone (Marlon Brando), in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. The film based on Mario Puzo’s bestseller won the Best Picture Oscar and is considered among the greatest movies of all time. Caan’s onscreen death amid a hail of bullets also is considered among cinema’s best.
Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.