Actor James Caan and director Sam Peckinpah may have not come to blows, but managed to get into a physical altercation with actor Gianni Russo
Actor James Caan almost got into a smackdown with director Sam Peckinpah during the making of The Killer Elite.
Peckinpah allowed for an explosion to be detonated near Caan’s face, which amped up the actor’s anger. “I said to Sam, ‘I’ll beat you like a redheaded stepchild,’” Caan told Bright Lights Film Journal in 2022.
“He was great, though, just insane,” he recalled. “As a matter of fact, when someone wrote a book about him, I was asked to give a quote for the cover. They had four quotes on the back. He called and said mine was the best. I had written, ‘Two more signatures and I’ll have him committed.’”
During the interview, Caan recalled how Peckinpah seemingly met his match on set. “He was like a great intimidator, but he found out really quick – I told him I would kick his f***ing ass. And he kind of liked that,” Caan recounted.
But James Caan got physical on ‘The Godfather’set
Caan and Peckinpah never came to blows and respected one another.
But actor Gianni Russo wasn’t as lucky when he worked with Caan on Francis Ford Coppola‘s The Godfather. Caan played Sonny Corleone who had a tense working relationship with Russo off-camera. Russo played Sonny’s brother-in-law Carlo Rizzi and the two characters fought during one scene in the film.
Russo recalled how off-camera tension spilled over into the scene and he ended up with a chipped elbow and two broken ribs.
“Sonny and I had a problem all through the movie, on and off the set,” Russo recounted to Entertainment Weekly.
Russo thinks he angered Caan at some point, which made their scene even more explosive. “We choreographed that scene for about a day and a half… Jimmy got a little aggressive, I would say, and he improvised a few things like that little billy club he threw at me when I came off the stoop. He hit me right in the head with that, and then he throws me over the railing and he’s biting my hands… when I crawl out, he literally lifted me up with his kick… none of that was supposed to happen.”
‘The Godfather’ severed any chance at a friendship between James Caan and Gianni Russo
Making The Godfather solidified Russo’s opinion of Caan. “With this being my first film, I didn’t want to complain,” Russo told EW. “Jimmy and I are not friends at all, believe me. The guy’s nuts.”
Even after Caan’s death in 2022, Russo still couldn’t find anything positive to say about the actor. “I think Caan resented me because I was close to the real mobsters, and he was just a pretend movie mobster,” he told The New York Post.
Russo also vowed to never work with Caan again. When his agent called him about casting Caan in Any Given Sunday, Russo refused.
“I said, ‘Do you think I would hire James Caan? I wouldn’t give Jimmy Caan a part in anything.’ He was so rude to me,” he recounted.
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