John Cazale was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to an Irish-American mother, Cecilia (Holland), and an Italian-American father, John Cazale. Cazale only made five feature films in his career, all which many fans and critics alike call classics. But before his film debut, the short The American Way (1962), he won numerous Obie Awards for his stage performances in “The Indian Wants the Bronx” and “The Line”.
Cazale scored the role of Fredo Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972), after his long time friend, Al Pacino, invited him to audition. He reprised his role as the troubled Fredo in The Godfather: Part II (1974), where his character endures one of the most infamous movie moments in the history of cinema.
Cazale also starred with Gene Hackman and Harrison Ford in the thriller, The Conversation (1974), as Hackman’s assistant, Stan. The Godfather’s director, Francis Ford Coppola, also directed the movie.
Cazale’s fourth feature film, Dog Day Afternoon (1975), earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Sal, a bank robber. His long time friend and Godfather co-star, Al Pacino, played his partner, Sonny.
His final film, The Deer Hunter (1978), was filmed whilst he was ill with cancer. He was in a relationship with his co-star, Meryl Streep, whilst filming The Deer Hunter (1978), whom he met when they both appeared in the New York Public Theater’s 1976 production of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.
Controversy occurred during the filming. While the studio was unaware of his condition, the director, Michael Cimino, knew about it. As Cazale was evidently weak, he was forced to film his scenes first. When the studio discovered he was suffering from cancer, they wanted him removed from the film. His co-star and girlfriend, Meryl Streep, threatened to quit if he was fired. He died shortly after filming was completed.
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