James Caan married several times in his lifetime and had several children from his unions. But it wasn’t till he lost his beloved sister that he decided to turn his life around…
On July 7, 2022, the world lost a well-loved artist with the passing of James Caan. His family shared that he had passed away the previous evening.
In his 82 years of life, the actor really lived a full life. In 1961, he married actress Dee Jay Mathis. The couple got divorced in 1966, and in their brief union of five years, they had a daughter who they named Tara.
Soon after his first divorce, Caan fell in love again. This time with Playboy model Sheila Ryan. He married Ryan in 1976, but this time the marriage was even briefer than before as they divorced in 1977. However, during their marriage, the couple welcomed their son Scott Caan.
Not one to give up, Caan started seeing Ingrid Hajek and married her in 1990. He was 20 years older than his wife. Together they had a son who they named Alexander before they divorced in 1994.
Soon after his third divorce, he was in love again. The actor married Linda Stokes in 1995. This was his longest union which lasted for twenty years but the marriage was tumultuous at best.
The couple was embroiled in a lengthy legal battle. The couple shared two children, James Jr. and Jacob who were both parts of the legal feud between both parents.
Stokes took Caan to court over several matters including over backdated child support and custody of their sons. James filed for divorce twice, in 2005 and then again in 2009 before the final filing in 2015.
In 1976, Caan was offered a role in “Apocalypse Now,” but turned it down because at the time his second wife, Playboy model Sheila Ryan was pregnant with his second child.
The child Ryan was pregnant with was referred to by Caan as his “dream child.” He gave up a house with a maid in Manilla and travel to the jungle location to shoot scenes on a helicopter so he could be there for Ryan during her pregnancy.
He told the producer he no longer wanted to do the project because he hated tsetse flies and heights. He wanted to be by his wife’s side when she was pregnant.
In 1981, Caan had a devastating blow to his life, he lost his sister Barbara Caan. At the time of her passing, Barbara Caan was only 38 years old and had been battling leukemia.
When he lost his sister, he was so devastated. He was reported to have said feeling “vulnerable and despondent.” He described Barbara not just as his sister but also as his manager and his best friend. Barbara ran his production company and always lived near her brother.
After she passed, Caan realized a lot of things. She was the only person he was afraid of. And he also realized that things could end so easily and passions could end as well. So he had a new philosophy, and reportedly said, “My passion was to grow up with my son.”
When Scott was growing up, James put his career on the back burner. Scott says that while he was growing up, his father barely did any projects and Scott did not even realize his father was an actor till he was 15 years old!
James Caan’s decision to put his career on hold and focus on his son came after his sister passed away and Scott was about five years old.
Scott only knew James as his father. And while he later recalled his childhood filled with ups and downs, he said to him it was just his father.
He did not know what a big star his father was, and only managed to watch his first movie starring his father when he was 11 years old because most of his father’s work was inappropriate for children. He watched “The Godfather” which left him a little disturbed.
In the scene where his father is shot, James became quite upset. And while he did not fully understand the film, he did appreciate his father’s legendary status and career.
Even with Jame’s commitment to his son, it was not all a bed of roses. Later on, Scott said in interviews that the father and son did have quite a dysfunctional relationship.
James was also forthcoming about where he fell short as a dad. As he fought addiction, he later said, his son might have experienced some unpleasantness as a result. He admitted at the time he was “a little rough around the edges.”
But Scott holds no resentment toward his father. He acknowledges while some decisions affected both of them in a negative way, he could not deny that his father was always there for him.