Seymour Cassel

Seymour Joseph Cassel (January 22, 1935 – April 7, 2019) was an American actor who appeared in over 200 movies and television shows, and had a career that spanned over 50 years.[1] 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). Notable films included: Coogan's Bluff (1968), The Last Tycoon (1976), Valentino (1977), Convoy (1978), 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 frequently cast Cassel – first in Rushmore (1998), then in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), and finally in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004).

Seymour Cassel
Seymour Cassel2.jpg
Cassel in 2007
Seymour Joseph Cassel

(1935-01-22)January 22, 1935
DiedApril 7, 2019(2019-04-07) (aged 84)
Years active1959–2015
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Deering (1964–1983; divorced)

Early life, family and educationEdit

Cassel was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Pancretia Ann (née Kearney), a performer, and Seymour Joseph Cassel, a nightclub owner.[2][3]

His mother was remarried to a master sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Forces, and the family moved to Panama, where Cassel's stepfather was said to have won a nightclub in a game of craps. After his mother filed for divorce in the late 1940s, she sent Mr. Cassel to live with his godmother in Detroit, where he soon joined a gang. He later said that at 17, he was given a choice: join the Navy, or go to jail. He picked the military, and after three years of service and a brief stint in college, he returned to Detroit, where he built props for a theater company and took small acting roles. Convinced he had a future in theater, he bought a bus ticket to New York, only to bomb at an Actors Studio audition.[4]


Cassel's early career was tied to fellow actor John Cassavetes, who was informally part of his clan of actors.[5] He made his movie debut in Cassavetes' first film, Shadows, on which Cassel also served as associate producer. In 1961 he co-starred with Cassavetes in Too Late Blues and 1962's The Webster Boy.

Cassel 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.

Cassel appeared in many major Hollywood productions such as Dick Tracy, Tin Men, and Indecent Proposal. He was also 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 on comedian Tracey Ullman's television series Tracey Takes On....

Personal lifeEdit

Cassel married Elizabeth Deering in 1964; they had two children before divorcing in 1983.

Guitarist Slash, 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."[6]

Cassel died on April 7, 2019, aged 84, of Alzheimer's disease.[7]


In 2009, the San Diego Film Festival awarded the actor with the Indie Icon Award.[8]

In September 2007, Cassel was a candidate for national president of the Screen Actors Guild, along with Charley M. De La Peña, Alan Rosenberg (incumbent), and Barry Simmonds.

In 2009, Cassel was once again a candidate for national president of the Screen Actors Guild along with Anne Marie Johnson and Ken Howard. Howard was the eventual winner.

In 2012, the Oldenburg Film Festival in Germany introduced an actors' prize named the Seymour Cassel Award.[9]

He won the National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Faces.[10]


Seymour Cassel in 1995


  1. ^ "Seymour Cassel". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Seymour Cassel Biography (1937-)".
  3. ^ Riggs, Thomas. "Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television, Volume 76". Google Books.
  4. ^ Seymour Cassel, mischievous character actor of independent films, dies at 84. The Washington Post. Retrieved February 22, 2020.
  5. ^ "Seymous Cassel Biography". Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  6. ^ Slash (autobiography) by Slash, 2007
  7. ^ "Seymour Cassel, Familiar Face in Cassavetes Films, Dies at 84". The Hollywood Reporter.
  8. ^ "Award Winners". 2011-01-23. Archived from the original on 2011-01-23. Retrieved 2019-09-23.
  9. ^ Roxborough, Scott (14 August 2012). "Seymour Cassel Lends Name to Oldenburg Festival's Actor's Prize". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  10. ^ "National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA winners". Retrieved September 29, 2016.

External linksEdit