Skip to Main Content
Michigan State University

People: James Caan

Actor James Caan returns as Grand Marshal of the 1997 MSU Homecoming Parade.

Michigan State University artistic image

SPARTAN HOMECOMING

Yes, you Caan come home again, even if you're a Hollywood star. Actor James Caan, Oscar nominee for his breakthrough role in 1972's The Godfather, returned this fall as Grand Marshal of the 1997 Homecoming Parade. 'It's mind-boggling,' says Caan, who came to MSU in 1956 to study economics and play football. 'I don't recognize anything. We had a huge enrollment of 18,000. Now it's 42,000.'

Caan had previously returned in 1977, when his movie Another Man, Another Chance premiered in Fairchild Theatre and MSU had grown to a mere 35,000 students. 'We had a lot of fun,' he recalls his days as a student. 'It's a whole big, solid memory that I have. It's an overall warm glow feeling.' When asked what position he played, he did not hesitate: 'Tackling dummy. They sent me home (The Bronx, New York) in a box.'

After a year at MSU, he returned to New York and soon began a long, accomplished acting career--first on stage, then on TV, then in movies beginning in 1964. In 1972, his role as Sonny Corleone got an Oscar nomination while his role in Brian's Song got an Emmy nomination. A star was born. 'Now I could do the telephone book and people would think I'm a good actor,' says James. 'That's not right, but that's the way it is.'

He's worked with stars ranging from John Wayne to Barbara Streisand and won several award nominations. Most recently, he starred in the hit Misery and in Eraser with Arnold Schwartzenegger. 'I've been fortunate in my life,' he says. 'Someone's watching over me.' And this year, his favorite football team is off to a great start. 'I can't say enough about Nick Saban,' says James. 'The discipline shown by this team, it's not easy to achieve.'

James spent time with the team before the Minnesota game, including the traditional walk from Kellogg Center to Spartan Stadium. Though confident of a Spartan win, James did say, 'If we lose, I'll never be invited back again.' MSU won 31-10. And the invite to come home remains open to one of the world's best known Spartans.

Author: Robert Bao

More Alumni Stories