Caan began his professional acting career on stage in New York City. The following year, Caan made his Broadway debut in Blood, Sweat, and Stanley Poole in 1961.He then moved to Los Angeles, California, where he began working in television.Piccolo was a professional football player for the Chicago Bears who was stricken with cancer at the height of his career.
Coppola then cast Caan in a role the actor was forever identified with in The Godfather.
In 1972's The Godfather, Caan played Sonny Corleone, the eldest son of the mafia capo.
In 1969, Caan appeared in The Rain People, a film directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
It was Coppola who soon helped Caan's career take off.
Though American actor James Caan was a leading man in the 1970s—his best–known role was as Sonny Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather —he stopped acting for five years in the 1980s.
Even before he left the industry behind, he was already playing more character roles, a trend that would continue into the early 2000s.
His first role was an uncredited part in 1963's Irma La Douce.
His first real film role came in 1964's Lady in a Cage.
His up–and–down career was slowly rebuilt after his hiatus, primarily after the success of 1990's Misery.
Caan was often cast in tough guy roles, especially mafia types, but he also succeeded in doing comedy, singing, and dancing.
He was offered, but refused, roles in many critically acclaimed films, including: M*A*S*H, Love Story, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Kramer vs. One of the roles that Caan did take in the 1970s was the lead in 1974's The Gambler.