The life story of John Cazale

An unusual life story about perhaps the most successful American actor, who made only five films in his career. But what! Everything that John Cazale shot at the age of 43 was crowned with the highest accolades by the film academy and critics.

Life is not a movie, but sometimes an entire life can fit into one movie… Or into five movies, as many as were made by American actor John Cazale. Not because he wasn’t talented for more, on the contrary… Forty-three years of his too-short life were spent in five films, all of which were nominated for Oscars in the Best Picture category.

He was ranked among the extremely talented actors, whose talent was huge and greatly influenced his film partners. He played Fred Corleone in two sequels to Coppola’s most famous film “The Godfather”, Salvatore Naturale in “Dog Afternoon”, Stos in “Deer Hunter” and Stena in “Eavesdropping”.

All five films starring John Cazale were nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture. Three out of five, they were also awarded an Oscar. No actor has this effect!

I’ll tell you the life story of John Cazale!

Earlier years

He was born on August 12, 1935, in Boston to a family of Italian immigrants. After graduating from high school, John Casale moved to New York, where he met his lifelong friend, Al Pacino. They were roommates for a while and together they started their acting careers.

On one occasion, he was noticed by the head of casting, Fred Ross, who recommended him to Francis Ford Coppola. In his film debut, Cazale gained great popularity in 1972 with the role of Fred Corleone in the film “The Godfather”, and two years later, he reappeared in the same role in the sequel to the saga of the Corleones. At the same time, his theatrical career flourished.

While they were playing together in the play “Measure for Measure”, a romance took place between the partners on the stage. John Cazale and Meryl Streep became more than actors in a successful play.

Very soon after the premiere of that play, the two of them started living together. They were both madly in love with each other, so much so that Meryl soon became engaged. This act also put an end to the happy period of this acting couple.

Before they even managed to plan their own wedding, the talented artist was diagnosed with bone cancer in the terminal phase. As he pushed through his most difficult moments in life, Cazale was by no means alone. His fiancée stopped her career, moved to his hospital room, to be with him as much as possible and give him extra strength to cheer himself up. She was in the room with him the moment he left this world.

He died at the age of 43. Next to him was Meryl, who could not face the fact that she was left without the love of her life, so she threw herself on his chest and started calling out to him out loud. At that moment, Cazale opened his eyes again and told her that everything would be fine.

“A real acting partner”

Although his illness was confirmed before the filming of “Deer Hunter”, he remained committed to his job and role, encouraged by the support provided by Meryl and his colleague Robert De Niro, who co-starred in the film. When the producers of the film wanted to replace him, De Niro and Streep threatened to cancel the shooting as well. The director of the film, Michael Cimino, changed the planned shooting schedule, so that all the scenes in which Cazale appears were shot first. He successfully finished filming his part of the job, but unfortunately, he did not manage to wait for the film premiere.

Although he played the roles of desperate and violent characters in the recorded productions, John Cazale was a dear and decent person in real life. Moreover, those who knew him better said that he was shy and very sensitive.

Cazale’s great friend, Al Pacino, said that all he ever wanted to do in the film was to work with John for the rest of his life, because he was his “real acting partner”. About his colleague Meryl Streep, Pacino knew how to say that he had never seen one person so dedicated to another, even though he knew that her end was inevitable, which, as he pointed out, was a sign of the great love that Meryl had for John.

Commenting on the achievements of Cazale, the director of the film “Dog’s Afternoon” Sidney Lumet once said:

“One of the things I love about John Cazale’s acting is the great sadness he carried within himself. I don’t know where it came from, because I never touched on the private things of the actors I worked with or was in their heads, but… My God! With him, sadness was present in every scene. And not only in my film, but also in The Godfather, also…”

“Godfather III”

Years later, through archival materials, Cazale “appeared” in his sixth film in 1990. The fact of disbelief is that “Godfather 3” was also nominated for an Oscar!

Cazale died at a New York hospital on March 12, 1978. In addition to being special in the sense that each of his films was nominated for an Academy Award, all five of his films are on IMDB’s list of the 250 best films ever.

What can be said with certainty is that no other actor, who has made more films than him, has managed to achieve what John Casale did during his short life. This fact can certainly rank him among the most successful actors of all time.



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