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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 22, 2003

Caan is cashing in with NBC's 'Las Vegas' series

By Mike Hughes
Gannett News Service

With all of its neon promises, Las Vegas, can mean many things.

James Caan plays Big Ed, the security chief in charge of protecting one of Sin City's biggest casinos, in NBC's TV series "Las Vegas."


For NBC, it means decent ratings. "Las Vegas" (8 p.m. Mondays), a glitzy series set in a casino, draws a respectable 11 million viewers a week and should get more when ABC's football season ends.

For the young actors, the city means flash and fun. "Vegas is outrageous and fabulous," says Marsha Thomason, an Englishwoman who's just discovering the place.

For top-billed James Caan, it means many things. When Caan was young, Las Vegas drained his money. "I used to go in a $30,000 car and come home in an $80,000 bus," he jokes.

Now 63, the city is a career move. First came "Honeymoon in Vegas" in 1992, helping revive his sleepy career; now its "Las Vegas," with various stories to tell.

"There are 127,000 (hotel) rooms in Vegas," says creator Gary Scott Thompson. "That's 127,000 stories every week."

Caan plays Big Ed, the security chief, with Molly Sims as his sexy daughter, Delinda. Josh Duhamel plays his protege, Danny. Thomason is Nessa, the pit boss; Nikki Cox is Mary, director of special events and Marcil is Samantha, an all-around slick operator.

The young actors are gorgeous and afraid of Big Ed, the head of security in charge of protecting one of "Sin City's" biggest casinos.

"There's no reason for me to play a tough guy," he says. "It would be like putting black stars on a black canvas."

People assume Caan is tough. He's been doing it convincingly for years. Now he adds other shades.

The image goes back to Caan's childhood as a butcher's son in Queens. His favorite sport was baseball — "my heroes were Mickey Mantle, (Roger) Maris and (Yogi) Berra" — but his best sport was football. He was just 16 when he became a running back on the freshman team for then-powerhouse Michigan State University.

"He was a good guy, a tough kid," recalls Dean Look, the team star. "He wasn't that big, but he worked hard."

He played hard and partied hard. After a year, he transferred to Hofstra University, where he took theater classes. After several action films, he starred in Francis Ford Coppola's 1969 "The Rain People."

Coppola then cast him in the 1972 classic, "The Godfather." The movie — combined with the 1971 "Brian's Song" — made Caan a major star. He's made plenty of career mistakes, he grants. He turned down "MASH" and "One Flew Over a Cuckoo's Nest."

He also tackled some demanding roles — then simply quit. "I sort of retired for five years," Caan says. "I thought I had a lot of money; I guess I didn't."