Seymour Cassel, the longtime actor who was associated with the cinema of John Cassavetes in the 1960s — and with the films of Wes Anderson four decades later — died Monday at the age of 84, per Showbiz 411. Vincent Curatola, the actor who played Johnny Sack on The Sopranos, appeared to be first to report the actor’s passing, per his Twitter account.
In addition to his acting work, Cassel has been credited with giving Slash, the Guns N’ Roses guitarist, his nickname. The iconic guitarist (real name Saul Hudson) was a childhood friend of Cassel’s son. This nickname was given to the top-hatted guitar virtuoso because he was always zipping along from room to room.
Born in Detroit in 1936, Cassel got his start in a series of Cassavetes films throughout the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s — including Faces, Shadows, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Love Streams. The actor’s role in Faces earned him his only Academy Award nomination.
By the 1980s and 1990s, Cassel began appearing as a character actor in a wide variety of films, including Barry Levinson’s Tin Men, Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy, Andrew Bergman’s Honeymoon in Vegas, and Steve Buscemi’s Trees Lounge. He also became a frequent TV guest star, appearing on such shows as Matlock, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Hooperman.
This look on Seymour Cassel's face after hearing Max dedicate his play to his late wife in RUSHMORE will always move me. RIP. pic.twitter.com/CSGdNaTaQx— Vikram Murthi (@fauxbeatpoet) April 8, 2019
Cassel became known to another generation of fans through his collaborations with director Wes Anderson. In 1998’s Rushmore, he played the father of Jason Schwartzman’s Max Fischer, while in 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums, he was Dusty, Gene Hackman’s friend who also posed as his doctor. And in 2004’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, he was Esteban du Plantier, the friend of Bill Murray’s Zissou, who is eaten by the mythical tiger shark at the beginning of the film. This act leads Zissou to take revenge.
In his later years, Cassel ran for president of the Screen Actors Guild on multiple occasions.
The actor’s IMDb page lists a film called Time Framed, in which he plays a character named Boris Esla, as his final film.
“Independent film is film that has thought in it. There’s no independent thought in studio films. It’s collective thought,” Cassel once said in an interview, per IMDb. “These things you get from Hollywood are no more than computer games, where you might as well have a little wired handset that you could blow up this truck if you want instead of that one, that would at least allow audience participation.”
Cassel was divorced, and is survived by two children.