Though James Caan will always be best known for playing Sonny Corleone over 40 years ago in The Godfather — though he certain has won even more fans over as the ill-tempered Walter Hobbs in the modern Christmas classic Elf –the 76 year-old actor hasn’t rested on his laurels over the past four decades. Though there was a period of time when Caan had financial troubles and had to accept roles he didn’t really believe in, he tells the New York Post that he has a new strategy for accepting work now.
Many actors of Caan’s generation — such as fellow Godfather series stars Al Pacino and Robert De Niro — have been criticized over the last two decades for taking roles considered beneath them, Caan is making an effort to choose the best roles. He explains, “Right now I’m only working when there’s something that comes along where I feel I can take a sense of pride. A lot of young actors look up to me and I wouldn’t trade that for any money in the world. I don’t want to lose their respect and be a hypocrite.”
One of those roles he feels pride in is playing Tap in the Hallmark TV movie JL Ranch, the movie’s villain. What he likes about playing villains is that he can turn so much of it over to body language — and Caan is, if nothing else, intimidating. He says, “It’s always more interesting to play the villain. I always make the point of saying, ‘You can’t say “Fuck you” nicely,’ so the actions speak louder than the words. It’s hard to tell writers, especially in movies, that words are secondary. Behavior is important. No matter how [Tap] says it he’s still going to take the ranch. Actors talking about acting is fucking boring … but I chose to be more of a lion in this role. A lion kills because he knows that he can, and I think I talk very quietly — but deadly — as Tap.”