James Caan — who returns to the small screen Sunday night in the fact-based FX movie A Glimpse of Hell — reveals that he initially rejected the role of football star

Brian Piccolo in the beloved 1971 TV pic Brian's Song for fear that it would tarnish his career.

"At that time, when you did television, they thought you were out of the business," admits Caan, whose role in The Godfather earned him an Oscar nomination. "I turned [Brian's Song] down four times because of that stigma, which I think is all baloney. I think it's terrible."

Caan points out that one of the reasons more and more film actors are being drawn to the boob tube — particularly cable — is the quality of the work. "Selfishly, I feel that I [have a chance to] act," he confesses. "They're doing stories that are character-driven, story-driven... they're [not] hanging me from some wire behind some green screen."

It's that level of excellence that attracted Caan to Hell, which tells the story of the Navy's botched and homophobia-ridden investigation into the tragic 1989 explosion aboard the USS Iowa in which 47 sailors were killed. Caan plays the real-life commander who initially accepted the Navy's findings that the explosion was the result of murder/suicide plot by one of the ship's supposedly gay sailors. "I didn't see him as being anybody evil," he says of Captain Fred Moosally. "He was neither good nor bad — he was Navy."