BootLeg Betty

BetteBack December 24, 1991: James Caan (For The Boys) Gives Rare Interview

Syracuse Herald Journal
December 24, 1991

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James Caan is and always has been a paradox; all swagger and menace, he is capable at the odd moment of flipping on an internal switch that ignites a charming — albeit killer — smile.

In the 1970s, this polarity made Caan one of Hollywood‘s most in-demand stars. After his ‘great success in “The Godfather,” he starred in the hits “Cinderella Liberty,” “Funny Lady” (in which he sang and danced opposite Barbra Streisand) and the TV epic “Brian’s Song.”

Along with the successes, however, were the great disappointments: “Slither,” “Hide in Plain Sight” (which he directed) and “Thief.”

After a string of late ’70s flops, he retired from the screen.

Caan’s.career was reborn last year with his much-touted turn in “Misery.” Bette Midler was so impressed that she and director Mark Rydell cast him in this holiday season’s big, brassy musical, “For the Boys.”

Recently, Caan granted a rare interview to talk about his new film, his comeback and other odd topics.

Q Bette Midler says you are very brave. Her line is “Jimmy is the only man to ever survive me, Barbra Streisand and Kathy Bates.” So tell the truth: Which of those three was the biggest monster?

A None of them were handfuls at all. Actually, for me, they were all a piece of cake. (Laughs) They were all scared of me, and didn’t give me any lip!

Q You took tap lessons for this film.

A Right. And I really enjoyed it. You get into great shape, and Bette and I took the lessons together, so I had a lot of fun.

Q You took the 1980s off, in terms of not making very many films.
Q So what were you doing all those years?

A I was coaching Little League, man. That was great. The pay isn’t great, but it was worth it to me. I decided I had had it with the frustrations of the movie business, and wanted to devote myself to my oldest son.

Q What’s your most vivid Little League memory?

A Over the years, as a Little League coach, you see a lot of families, most of whom participate. But I’ve always been puzzled by the father who isn’t there to see his kid’s first Little League game, not because he’s in China, but because he isn’t interested.

That bothers me. Anyways, I had one kid who was a fatherless boy who was having trouble hitting the ball. And he had all this frustration — he would cry. So I went to his house during the week to help him out personally. Cut to the chase — during one of the last
games, the kid hit a double. He was transformed.

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