James Caan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying The Big Man in Dogville.
The woman, Grace (Nicole Kidman), is running from The Big Man played by James Caan. Caan briefly appears in hand, and in voice early on as a dark figure in the back of a car driven by two men who appear to be mobsters. The voice offers a reward for her whereabouts, but then disappears with his men not to return until the final act of the film. James Caan finally appears as Grace, after having been psychologically and physically abused by the townspeople, goes to see The Big Man who is revealed to be her father. Caan's performance is essential to the film as he has much to fulfill in very little screentime. The first being the sheer presence of a figure known as the Big Man, well this being James Caan him being a believable mobster is basically a given, but it goes beyond that. What Caan must also find is whatever this relationship with Grace is in a few seconds, a relationship that we have had some slight indications of but it is not until now that we see what it truly is.
Caan's performance measures up to these expectations particularly in regards to his relationship with Grace. Kidman and Caan are perfect together as they find this complex relationship between father and daughter in only a few minutes. Caan's fascinating in that he does exude this sort of underlying warmth in the way he speaks to her. There is also the right familiarity between the two as even in this point of a certain difficulty the history between the two is felt through the performance. There is that apparent love of sorts in Caan's manner as he speaks to her, but this is only a facet of it. Their conversation touches their relationship but it is most dependent on the town as the two speak of essentially their different views of the world and people in particular. Caan's brilliant in his approach as The Big Man explains his view that dogs should not be forgiven of their crimes against Grace's initial belief that they essentially do not know better. Caan dominates the conversation in his portrayal of The Big Man's assurance of this view. There is not an inherent morality in this that Caan portrays but rather he presents it as this innate knowledge and in doing so effectively presents his philosophy to Grace. Caan portrays the Big Man wholly in control of this view, and there is a certain passion through not being directly overt about it, bur rather through that sheer control of it. Now within that conversation, that could have been purely cerebral, it is not. As in the presentation of this view Caan reveals The Big Man's history with grace, in that odd tenderness even if he is giving an apology for having shot at her. Caan makes it all the more personal though in the persuasion is less of some devil tempting her view, but rather there is even almost earnestness to accept his view which is to see the world without any blinders, or at least according to him. Caan is persuasive though again not by showing this to be finally a good man, no one is good within Dogville, but rather someone who appears to stand without a single delusion within the film's world. This is an excellent performance by James Caan as he makes his impact that not only establishes his character, his relationship with Kidman's but also realizes the pivotal denouement for the film.