Why The First Film James Caan Directed Was Also His Last

As we mourn and celebrate the life and career of James Caan, it's important that we remember not only what a remarkable talent he was in front of the screen, but also what a straight-shooter he was about the ridiculous industry we all love so much. Caan became one of the most recognizable actors in the business, and was known for playing badass characters on screen that could only hope to be as cool as he was.

Jeff Weiss did the thankless work of sharing an interview Caan did with Playboy back in the day, that only solidifies that he might just actually have been his character in "Thief" this whole time. Caan was so cool he improvised a scene in "The Godfather" that made the final cut, which is a testament to his understanding of what it takes to craft the perfect film.

So it's surprising that Caan only tried his hand at directing once. In 1980, Caan starred in and directed the film "Hide in Plain Sight," a film loosely based on the story of Tom Leonard, a man who fought with the federal Witness Protection Program for the right to see his children after his ex-wife remarried someone in the program. The film received lackluster reviews and failed to make its budget back at the box office, but if you asked James Caan why it failed, it was the system's inability to accept something other than a summer blockbustin' popcorn movie.

'Everybody wants to do Rocky Nine'

In an interview with the New York Times from back in 1981, Caan talked briefly about his directorial efforts, and had plenty to say about the people who couldn't get on board with his vision. "Sometimes, of course, you work hard, get rave reviews, and the rewards are not forthcoming," he said. ”I spent two years of my life doing it, and some jerk at United Artists — who's been fired, thank God — said, 'This picture isn't commercial.' Well, it wasn't. There were no sharks." Caan is of course referring to the boom in "Jaws" films and "Jaws" rip-offs following Spielberg's smash-hit, which made studios desperate to capture the magic once again.

”Plus I had to listen to speeches like, 'I've been watching rushes for 40 years, and you have to do so and so.' ”I'd say, 'everything's changed in 40 years. Peanut butter's changed in 40 years. What are you telling me?' ”I mean, the guy put music into my film when I wasn't there. I said, 'I don't want music, I'm shooting a cinema verite kind of thing, so why the hell is the Fifth Symphony coming out of the candy store, all of a sudden?'"

Caan declared that he would never direct again because, "everybody wants to do 'Rocky Nine' and 'Airport 96' and 'Jaws Seven' and you look and you listen, and what little idealism you have left slowly dwindles," and he stayed true to his word. Caan never snagged a seat in the director's chair, and we were left with a mediocre action drama that clearly wasn't in line with his original vision following producer input.

May his memory be a blessing.