The legend, James Caan, didn’t do a lot of genre work, but his role as Paul Sheldon in Misery is one of his finest performances and one of the best lead acting roles in the history of horror. One of the great tough-guy actors of all time played a man at his most vulnerable, as the injured and imprisoned writer Sheldon, held against his will to continue the novel series that he wished to be done with.
It was largely a two-person stage play, for which Caan was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, and helped launch Kathy Bates from relative obscurity with her Best Actress winning role as Sheldon’s tormentor, Anne Wilkes. The chemistry between the two was spot-on perfect and will remain a high-water mark for both actors, which is really saying something.
The highlight of the movie (Small spoiler alert for a movie 32 years old) is the hobbling sequence, which will still draw out screams of vicarious pain from the audience. In a genre filled with gory details, that hammer blow is one of the most gut-wrenching things you will ever see, and Caan sold that scene completely. CRUNCH.
On a day like today, there is probably no better statement than the classic tag line from Misery, as Annie tells Paul, “I’m your biggest fan.”
Rest in peace, James Caan, you had a tremendous run.