As everyone from Quentin Tarantino to George Lucas will tell you, it’s a huge boost when a Hollywood veteran is ready to not just read, but then appear in one of your first movies. . Anderson (as well as Luke and Owen Wilson) got that big break thanks to James Caan.
Anderson and company had trouble finding an actor to play the key role of badass Mr. Henry in the director’s debut film “Bottle Rocket,” but as Anderson admits in the DVD commentary, “we had very lucky to have “James Caan, because “we had the same agent”. Landing the role turned out to be a treat for the Oscar-nominated actor, who was looking to revive his career after a stint in rehab and bad press.
Caan was not only a perfect fit for the role of twisted mentor to the characters of Luke and Owen Wilson, but he also acted as a mentor to the actors themselves. He even incorporated a bit of his own life into the film, showing off his karate skills, and landed a role for his sensei, Tak Kubota. Caan philosophized about the film’s title and its meaning, telling the Dallas Observer in 1995, “These guys, you see, Anthony and Dignan and Bob, they’re bottle rockets. They go a certain distance, then they stop . And that’s okay, because they’re happy.”
While perhaps best known for playing Sonny Corleone in the first “Godfather” movie, Caan has played many larger-than-life characters, from Brian Piccolo in the tearful “Brian’s Song,” to Frank in “Thief ” from Michael Mann, to the terrified writer. Paul Sheldon in “Misery”, as well as Will Ferrell’s father “Elf”.
“I fought to never be the same person,” he told CBS News in 2021 before dying a year later at age 82. “The fun of being an actor is the fun of being someone else for three months, you know?”