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Seymour Cassel Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (6) | Personal Quotes (4)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 22 January 1935Detroit, Michigan, USA
Birth NameSeymour Joseph Cassel
Height 5' 7¾" (1.72 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Seymour Cassel, the veteran character actor who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as the hippie swinger Chet in John Cassavetes' Faces (1968), studied acting at the American Theatre Wing and at the Actors Studio. He made his movie debut in Cassavetes' first film, Shadows (1959), on which he also served as associate producer.

Cassel's early career was tied to Cassavetes, who himself had a flourishing career as an actor on television and in major Hollywood productions in addition to becoming, arguably, the first great independent movie director after the collapse of the studio system in the late 1950s/early 1960s. As for Cassel, after his uncredited role in "Shadows," he co-starred with Cassavetes in The Webster Boy (1962) and Too Late Blues (1961) before winding up in support of his friend in Don Siegel's The Killers (1964), a movie shot for TV that had to be released theatrically due to its heightened violence (it was also Ronald Reagan's last movie). Cassel primarily made his living on TV in the 1960s, frequently typecast as beatniks and hippies. He had a supporting role in the Cassavetes-directed episode "A Pair of Boots" (1962) for The Lloyd Bridges Show (1962) as well as appearing on such popular programs as 12 O'Clock High (1964), Combat! (1962) and The F.B.I. (1965) before scoring with his aging hippie in "Faces" at the end of that tumultuous decade.

Along with "Shadows," "Faces" remains his favorite Cassavettes film. In addition to acting, Cassel was also a crew member on the film, as the technical staff numbered all of seven. He helped shoot the film as a second cameraman, as well as adjusting the lighting. As the film was financed by Cassavettes himself, there were no union regulations to deal with, nor a studio schedule to keep.

Several of Cassavettes' films were shot in continuity, so the actors could develop a character in sequence--similar to stage acting--rather than the traditional method of film making, which is shot out of sequence. Cassel has stated that this technique enhanced the success of his works by eliminating the "fourth wall" between the audience and the actors. He believes that acting tells the film's story, not the images and that what is important is how the audience relates to the characters on screen.

As their careers matured, Cassel also co-starred with Cassavetes in two TV movies, Nightside (1973) and Nightside (1973) and appeared in supporting roles in three more Cassavetes-directed films: The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976), Opening Night (1977) and Love Streams (1984).

In addition to appearing in studio films, Cassel has remained prominent in the American independent film community since the death of his friend and collaborator. He contributed a cameo appearance in the directorial debut of Steve Buscemi (with whom he appeared as a co-star in the black comedy In the Soup (1992)), Trees Lounge (1996), and has appeared in three films by Wes Anderson: Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004).

Cassel is prized by independent directors for two things: his positive nature, and his (perhaps) facetious declaration that he'd be in any independent film for the price of a plane ticket if he liked the script.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (1)

Elizabeth Deering (14 March 1964 - 1983) (divorced) (2 children)

Trade Mark (2)

Unexpectedly intelligent working-class characters
Distinctive rusty voice

Trivia (6)

Has a daughter from an earlier relationship.
Father of Matthew Cassel.
In both Rushmore (1998) and The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) his character is mistaken for a doctor.
Is also an accomplished stage director who won the Los Angeles Critics' Award for his production of "Jesse and the Bandit" at the L.A. Stage Theater.
Responsible for giving Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash his nickname.
Mentioned in two auto-biographies co-written by Anthony Bozza; "Slash" and "Too Fat To Fish" by his Beer League co-star Artie Lange.

Personal Quotes (4)

Faces (1968) and Shadows (1959) are my favorite John Cassavetes films. And they were John's favorites, too. "Shadows" because it was our first. And "Faces because it was a defining turning point in the way we were going to make films. I knew it was, because I worked on the crew. We had a crew of seven. I did it all. I shot, I loaded magazines, moved lights, put screens in. We took turns competing to shoot with the second camera. That way of making a film was so much fun. No unions to deal with, no time schedule. We shot it in continuity, which John did with every film after that. He did it for himself and he did it for the actors.
[on shooting in continuity] For an actor it's ideal, you build the character as he goes along, the way it was written. Like with a play, the curtain goes up and you do the first act, the second act, you just play the shit out of it. Most films you do piecework" "Why are we breaking this scene up, for Christ's sake, let's just shoot!" "Well, because once we pull this wall . . . " Jesus, forget the wall. It doesn't matter how beautifully a film is photographed. The acting tells your story. It's what people relate to. If you don't believe the characters, it doesn't work.
Shadows (1959) wasn't so difficult to get made. It was just, when [John Cassavetes] had the time. He was a working actor, a television star. Edge of the City (1957) had just come out, with him and [Sidney Poitier] and Jack Warden, so John would work to make a living and also to put money into what he wanted to do. We tried doing a couple of films, one with Paramount, and one with Stanley Kramer, and then he just decided, "I'm going to borrow the money on my house". He took a job at Universal and spent the money on the film. People thought John was crazy, spending his own money. And yet they admired him for it. Many people came out and said, "Boy I'd love to make a film that way. Well, borrow some money, get some people together -- you can get people to work for nothing, just treat them right, treat them as human beings, not stars, give them all an equal share, make them feel a part of what they're doing. There's no big secret to it. But people just didn't have the guts. I met a lot of directors, friends of John's, people I admired, say Don Siegel. But Don had grown up in the studio system. He wasn't going to go over and move a chair, grab a camera, just get it into place and shoot it, that wasn't his style.
Independent film is film that has thought in it. There's no independent thought in studio films. It's collective thought. 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. With independent film, simply because they don't have the money to make a big-budget film, they're forced to make a story that's important to them, that they would like to see on film, a personal story that people can relate to, about people, where you can see the love of the characters. That's true of the best films I've done, certainly [John Cassavetes] films."

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