Even as a kid I was fascinated by John Cazale -- even if I didn't know his name. I was first introduced to the performer when I watched The Godfather, and even as a 12-year-old I could tell the difference between Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and his sad-sack older brother Fredo (Cazale). I remember wondering how Fredo could be the brother of such cool guys like Michael and Sonny (James Caan) ... and I definitely remember feeling sympathy for poor Fredo.
Then my father introduced me to Dog Day Afternoon (pictured above), which features an electric performance by Mr. Cazale, and one that couldn't possibly be more different than the role of Fredo. As Sal, the odd, sketchy, and intense bank robber, Cazale blew me away in Dog Day (and to this day it remains one of my very favorite films). Unfortunately it wasn't until I got a little older that I "rediscovered" Mr. Cazale in The Conversation, The Godfather Part 2, and The Deer Hunter. But that was enough to make me a lifelong fan. John Cazale died of bone cancer in 1978, at the way-too-young age of 42 -- but he does hold one very interesting piece of movie trivia: of the five features that John Cazale appeared in ... all five were nominated for Best Picture. So not only was Mr. Cazale one of the most unique and gifted performers of his generation; he was also a lucky charm where awards were concerned -- and his work has proved irresistible to movie freaks of many generations.
Produced by Brett Ratner and directed by Richard Shepard, I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale is a 40-minute HBO documentary on John Cazale that every one of those fans should see.