Sonny Corleone: curiosities to remember James Caan’s mythical character in ‘The Goodfather’

onny Santino Corleone is a fictional character from Mario Puzo’s 1969 mafia novel The Godfather, portrayed to perfection by legendary late actor James Caanin Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 film adaptation of the book.

He is the oldest child of Vito Corleone, a mafia don, and Carmela Corleone. Connie is his sister, and he has two brothers named Fredo and Michael. James Caan played Sonny in the first Godfather movie, and he briefly took on the role again for a flashback scene in The Godfather Part II.


Roman Coppola, son of The Godfather Part II director Francis Ford Coppola, portrayed Sonny in the film’s 1920s scenes as a young boy.

A fan favorite, there are a lot of things about Sonny Corleone that makes him such an interesting character, let’s take a look at some of the most incredible facts about him.

Who is Sonny Corleone based on?

Although it’s not confirmed, Sonny may be modeled after Bill Bonanno, who was raised by his father Joe Bonanno to be the family’s boss and took charge of the clan when Joe vanished while fighting off rival mobsters.

Later, Bonanno served as the protagonist of the nonfiction book Honor Thy Father, published in 1971. Actor Joseph Bologna played Bonanno in the television miniseries based on the book. In the 1993 made-for-TV film “Love, Honor & Obey: The Last Mafia Marriage,” played by actor Eric Roberts, actor Tony Nardi played the adult Joseph Bonanno.

Who is Sonny Corleone’s son?

Sonny Corleone’s son is Vincenzo Santino Corleone. He made his screen debut in The Godfather Part III(1990). Andy Garcia, was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of him. Sonny Corleone and his mistress Lucy Mancini have an illegitimate son named Vincent. He eventually takes over as the Corleone family’s head from his uncle Michael.

Since it is clear from Mario Puzo’s original 1969 novel that Lucy did not have a child with Sonny, he was especially made for The Godfather Part III.

According to Coppola, Vincent is a combination of the five male Corleone family members; he possesses the cunning of his grandfather Vito, the temper of his father Sonny, the ruthlessness of his uncles Michael and Fredo, and the bravery of his uncle Tom Hagen.

What happened to Sonny in The Godfather?

In the first “Godfather” movie, when Virgil “The Turk” Sollozzo, a drug lord supported by the Tattaglia family, approaches Vito and offers him a job in the drug business. Sonny interrupts the meeting and expresses interest in the deal, which Vito rejects.

Later, Vito berates Sonny for telling an outsider what was going through his head. Later, Sollozzo makes an attempt to have Vito killed because he thinks Sonny, as his father’s heir, will involve the Corleone family in the drug business.

Due to the botched assassination attempt, Vito is in critical condition, and Sonny takes over as head of the Corleone family. Sonny gives Clemenza the order to kill Paulie Gatto, Vito’s traitorous bodyguard.

At the hospital, Sollozzo mounts a second assassination attempt on Vito, which Michael foils. Then Sonny gives the order to kill Bruno Tattaglia, the son and subordinate of Sollozzo’s ally Philip Tattaglia. Sollozzo suggests sending Michael to urge a cease-fire. Sonny declines and threatens to start a war if the other Mafia families don’t turn over Sollozzo to the Corleone family because he thinks it’s a joke.

Hagen is able to persuade Sonny to wait because corrupt NYPD Captain Mark McCluskey, who works for Sollozzo, has agreed to serve as Sollozzo’s bodyguard.

Hagen cautions Sonny that murdering McCluskey would go against a long-standing Mafia rule not to kill law enforcement officials and that there would be serious repercussions from rival Mafia families and the police.

Michael, who had previously expressed no interest in participating in the family business, offers to kill both Sollozzo and McCluskey, claiming that the latter is a fair target because he is a corrupt police officer involved in the drug trade.

Michael’s assurance and seriousness impress Sonny, but he has his doubts about his “nice college boy” brother’s murderous propensities. But in the end, he agrees to the hit. At an Italian restaurant in the Bronx, Michael meets with Sollozzo and McCluskey and murders both men. This starts the first Mafia war in New York City’s underworld in ten years. Sonny sets up Michael’s escape to Sicily with Don Tommasino, a friend of Vito’s, as his guardian.

Sonny, unable to end the ongoing conflict between the Five Families, orders bloody raids that give him a legendary reputation. He also starts hatching plans to assassinate the rival Mafia leaders. Carlo Rizzi, the abusive husband of Connie, is recruited by Vito’s rival and the man behind Sollozzo, Emilio Barzini, to assist in the setting of a trap. Earlier, after Carlo attacked Connie, Sonny attacked him. Carlo incites Connie to a fight before brutally beating her in an effort to bring Sonny out into the open. She calls the Corleone estate in tears and pain, pleading for Sonny’s assistance.

Sonny rushes past his bodyguards to Connie’s apartment in Hell’s Kitchen in a rage. Sonny is captured and killed by Barzini’s men at the Long Beach Causeway toll booth.

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