Oscar-nominated actor Seymour Cassel dead at 84

Prolific actor Seymour Cassel, who received an Academy Award nomination for “Faces” and appeared in Wes Anderson films including “Rushmore,” died Sunday in Los Angeles of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 84.

Cassel was a veteran of dozens of independent films, appearing in multiple roles in films directed by John Cassavetes and Anderson. In addition to playing Bert Fischer in “Rushmore,” he appeared in “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.”

Cassel was born in Detroit on Jan. 22, 1935. His early career was tied to Cassavetes and he made his movie debut in an uncredited role in Cassavetes’ first film, “Shadows,” in 1958 and became an associate producer on the project. He co-starred with Cassavetes in “Too Late Blues” and “The Webster Boy” and appeared on “The Lloyd Bridges Show” in the episode “A Pair of Boots” directed by  Cassavetes. His early TV credits included “Twelve O’Clock High,” “Combat!,” “The F.B.I.” and “Batman” in the episode “A Piece of the Action.”

In 1968, Cassel was nominated for the Academy Award for supporting actor for his role as Chet in Cassavetes’s cinema verite drama “Faces.” He also won a National Society of Film Critics Award for the performance. Other collaborations with Cassavetes included the co-lead with Gena Rowlands in “Minnie and Moskowitz” as a free-spirited parking attendant, “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie,” and “Love Streams.”

He met Anderson through indie director Alexandre Rockwell, who cast Cassel in “In the Soup,” for which he won a Sundance acting prize.

Other feature film credits include “Dick Tracy,” “Tin Men,” “The Last Tycoon,” “Honeymoon in Vegas,” “Convoy,”  “Indecent Proposal” as Robert Redford’s chauffeur and Steve Buscemi’s directorial debut “Trees Lounge.” He also starred in Buscemi’s “Animal Factory” and “Lonesome Jim.” Cassel appeared for four seasons in “Tracey Takes On….”

Cassel was also active in the Screen Actors Guild and was a member of the national board for several terms. He ran unsuccessfully for the SAG presidency in 2007 and 2009.

He is survived by his three children, Lisa Papciak, Matthew Cassel and Dilyn Cassel Murphy, seven grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.

Donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

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