Seymour Cassel, an Oscar-nominated longtime actor whose 200-plus screen credits include several John Cassavetes movies and three for Wes Anderson, died Sunday of Alzheimer’s complications in Los Angeles. He was 84.
Cassel scored a Supporting Actor Oscar nom for Cassavetes’ 1968 film Faces, a role that also earned him a trophy from the National Society of Film Critics. He appeared in about a half-dozen of Cassavetes’ films and also acted opposite him in a few others. Anderson cast Cassel in his films The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and Rushmore (1998).
Cassel also was active in pre-merger SAG politics, running for national president in 2007 and 2009.
Born on January 22, 1935, in Detroit, Cassel’s film debut was an uncredited role in Cassavetes’ Shadows (1958). We would co-star alongside the filmmaker-actor in the early-’60s movies The Webster Boy, Too Late Blues — which Cassavetes also helmed — and The Killers, which was Ronald Reagan’s last movie. Cassavetes also directed Cassel in the 1970s pics The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Opening Night, Love Streams (1984) and in an episode of The Lloyd Bridges Show.
Along with his Oscar nom, Cassel also earned a Supporting Actor award from the National Society of Film Critics for Faces. Other accolades during his career include lifetime achievement awards from the Malibu and Rhode Island film festivals; Sundance Special Jury Award for his role opposite Steve Buscemi in In the Soup (1992), which also earned him a Silver Hugo from the Chicago Film Festival; and the German Independence Honorary Award from the Oldenburg Film Festival, which later named an acting award after him and gave him a star on its Walk of Fame.
On the big screen, Cassel appeared in such familiar films as Coogan’s Bluff, The Last Tycoon, Tin Men, Dick Tracy, Honeymoon in Vegas, Stuck on You, Indecent Proposal, It Could Happen to You and 2000’s The Crew, starring opposite Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Reynolds and Dan Hedaya.
Along with his dozens of silver-screen credits, Cassel was a series regular on Under Suspicion, a dark cop drama that bounced around CBS’ schedule in 1994-95. He also starred in the short-lived CBS sitcom Good Company (1996) and recurred as Candy Casino in HBO’s Tracey Ullman series Tracey Takes On. Cassel also guested on such TV favorites as Batman, The F.B.I., My Three Sons, The Fugitive, 12 O’clock High, Wagon Train, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Matlock, Tales From the Dark Side, Emergency! and Chicago Hope.