Favorite of Cassavetes and Wes Anderson Dead at 84

Seymour Cassel was a character actor who worked with the greats
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 8, 2019 5:37 PM CDT
Favorite of Cassavetes and Wes Anderson Dead at 84
This Dec. 9, 2004 file photo shows actor Seymour Cassel at the world premiere of "The Life Aquatic" in New York.   (AP Photo/Louis Lanzano, File)

Character actors aren't often called larger-than-life, but Seymour Cassel was just that. The live-wire pillar of independent film known for his frequent collaborations with John Cassavetes and Wes Anderson has died at 84, the AP reports. His daughter, Dilyn Cassel Murphy, said Monday that her father passed away Sunday surrounded by family following complications from Alzheimer's disease. Born in Detroit, he traveled frequently with his burlesque dancer mother as a child, and never met his father. He was an angry and rebellious teen, who started drinking at 13. His mother shipped him off to live with his godmother in Detroit, where he stayed until enlisting in the Navy at 17. He eventually made his way to New York in the 1950s to pursue acting, launching a 60-year career with appearances in over 100 films.

It was there that he met Cassavetes, who he said "saved" his life, and made his film debut in his 1958 feature Shadows. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. In 1959 he followed Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands to Los Angeles where he lived in their guest house. He'd go on to work for Cassavetes often, with roles in Faces, which earned him a best supporting actor nomination in 1969, Minnie and Moskowitz, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Opening Night, and Love Streams. Working with Cassavetes got him on the radar of many and he'd get the chance to work with greats like Sam Peckinpah in Convoy, Elia Kazan in The Last Tycoon, and Nicolas Roeg in Track 29 and Cold Heaven. After a difficult period during which he even spent time in jail, he bounced back and worked frequently in the 1990s, with roles in films like Dick Tracy, White Fang, In the Soup, Indecent Proposal, Honeymoon in Vegas, and It Could Happen to You. And then, in 1998 a new generation would meet him as a result of the beginnings of a fruitful collaboration with Anderson, as Bert Fischer in Rushmore. He'd go on to work his him twice more, playing the ill-fated Esteban in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and Dusty the elevator operator in The Royal Tennebaums.

(Read more celebrity death stories.)

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