Oscar-nominated character actor Seymour Cassel, best known for such films as Faces and Rushmore, passed away on April 8, 2019, following complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 84 years old.
Seymour Joseph Cassel was born on January 22, 1935, in Detroit, Michigan. He briefly lived in New York above a nightclub, which his dad owned, before moving back to Detroit to live with his godmother when he was 12. Following a stint with the U.S. Navy, Cassel studied acting with Stella Adler at Carnegie Hall.
Much of Cassel’s early career was tied to fellow actor and future icon of independent cinema John Cassavetes. The pair first teamed on Cassavetes’ directorial debut Shadows, with Cassel starting out as an unpaid crew member before being given an uncredited onscreen role and an associate producer credit.
Cassel played hippie swinger Chet in Cassavetes’ 1968 feature Faces, for which he earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Cassavetes went on to direct Cassel in Minnie and Moskowitz, Too Late Blues, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Opening Night, Love Streams and on an episode of The Lloyd Bridges Show. Both Cassavetes and Cassel acted alongside one another in The Webster Boy, Don Siegel’s The Killers, Burke’s Law, and the ABC movie, Nightside.
Outside of his collaborations with Cassavetes, Cassel also appeared on the World War II dramas Twelve O’Clock High and Combat! Cassel appeared as one of Colonel Gumm’s henchmen in the 1960s Batman episode “A Piece of the Action.” This episode also featured Van Williams as the Green Hornet and Bruce Lee as Kato.
He later played Robert Redford’s chauffeur in Indecent Proposal, cop Sam Catchem in Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy, along with appearances in In the Soup, Trees, Rushmore, Lounge, Animal Factory and Lonesome Jim. Additional credits include Coogan’s Bluff, The Last Tycoon, Valentino, California Dreaming, Tin Men, White Fang, Honeymoon in Vegas, It Could Happen to You, Stuck on You, Beer League, Reach for Me, and Pete Smalls Is Dead.
Cassel was also a candidate for national president of the Screen Actors Guild in 2007 and 2009. Survivors include son Matt, daughters Lisa and Dilyn, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that a donation be made to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.