Seymour Cassel, 2007
Seymour Joseph Cassel|
January 22, 1935
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Cassel first came to prominence in the 1960s in the pioneering independent films of writer/director John Cassavetes. The first of these was Too Late Blues (1961), followed by Faces (1968), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award and won a National Society of Film Critics Award. Cassel went on to appear in Cassavetes' Minnie and Moskowitz (1971), The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976), Opening Night (1977), and Love Streams (1984).
He has further appeared in a number of independent and Hollywood film productions. Notable titles include Coogan's Bluff (1968), The Last Tycoon (1976), Valentino (1977), Johnny Be Good (1988), Mobsters (1991), In the Soup (1992), Honeymoon in Vegas (1992), Indecent Proposal (1993), Beer League (2006), and Fort McCoy (2011). Like Cassavetes, Wes Anderson has frequently cast Cassel - first in Rushmore (1998), and then in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004).
Cassel was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Pancretia Ann (née Kearney), a performer, and Seymour Joseph Cassel, a nightclub owner. Cassel's early career was tied to fellow actor John Cassavetes, who is informally part of his clan of actors. He made his movie debut in Cassavetes' first film, Shadows, on which he also served as associate producer. In 1961 he co-starred with Cassavetes in Too Late Blues and 1962's The Webster Boy. He also appeared in The Lloyd Bridges Show in the episode "A Pair of Boots" directed by his friend Cassavetes. Cassel appeared on such popular programs as Twelve O'Clock High, Combat! and The F.B.I. He also appeared as "Cancelled", one of Colonel Gumm's henchmen, in the 1960s Batman TV episode "A Piece of the Action", which also featured guest stars Van Williams and Bruce Lee as The Green Hornet and Kato, respectively.
In 1968, Cassel was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Chet in John Cassavetes's Faces. Other collaborations with Cassavetes included a starring role with Gena Rowlands in Minnie and Moskowitz, supporting roles in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Love Streams, and a cameo appearance in Opening Night. Having appeared in major Hollywood productions such as Dick Tracy, Tin Men, and Indecent Proposal, Cassel has also been very supportive of the American independent film community, especially in the wake of Cassavetes's death. Cassel had a small role in Steve Buscemi's directorial debut Trees Lounge and appeared in three films by Wes Anderson: Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic. Cassel appeared for four seasons in comedian Tracey Ullman's television series Tracey Takes On....
Cassel married Elizabeth Deering in 1964; they had two children before divorcing in 1983.
Guitarist Slash (real name Saul Hudson), who was childhood friends with Cassel's son, credited Cassel with giving him his nickname, because he was always zipping from one place to another and never sitting still.