Friday 23 August 2019

Veteran Hollywood star Seymour Cassel dies at 84

The American actor died after complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

Seymour Cassel (AP Photo/Louis Lanzano, File)
Seymour Cassel (AP Photo/Louis Lanzano, File)

By Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press

Seymour Cassel, a live-wire pillar of independent film known for his frequent collaborations with directors John Cassavetes and Wes Anderson, has died at the age of 84.

His daughter, Dilyn Cassel Murphy, said her father died on Sunday surrounded by family following complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

Born in Detroit, he travelled frequently with his burlesque dancer mother as a child, and never met his father.

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Seymour Cassel (Matt Sayles/AP)

“I started performing when I was three. I’d come out in a little checkered suit and pull down the clown’s pants — I loved that!” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1992.

“I was a little ham and was a very open kid, probably because I was around adults all the time.”

He was an angry and rebellious teenager 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 more than 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, which he also associate-produced, almost by accident.

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John Cassavetes, left, with Ben Gazzara (PA)

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 went 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 got 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.

His journey in Hollywood was not without issues, mostly the result of a hard-partying lifestyle with the likes of The Beatles and the Rolling Stones that took a toll on his health, marriage and family life.

He even spent time in jail in 1982, and went into recovery in the mid-80s.

Cassel bounced back, however, 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.

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Wes Anderson (Yui Mok/PA)

In 1998 a new generation met him as a result of a fruitful collaboration with Anderson, as Bert Fischer in Rushmore. He went on to work with Anderson him twice more, playing the ill-fated Esteban in The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, and Dusty the elevator operator in The Royal Tennebaums.

He guessed that Anderson cast him because he liked his face.

“It’s a dream to become an actor,” Cassel told the LA Times in 2009. “But it’s your dream. Don’t give up on it.”

Cassel is survived by three children, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The family has asked to consider donating to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America in lieu of flowers.

PA Media

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