Seymour Cassel, the Academy Award-nominated actor who regularly collaborated with Wes Anderson and John Cassavetes, died Sunday following complications from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 84, according to multiple media outlets including the Associated Press.
Born in Detroit in 1935, Cassel’s career in film began alongside Cassavetes’ as he took a role as a crew member on the legendary filmmaker’s 1959 debut film “Shadows,” a job which turned into an uncredited onscreen role and then into a credit as associate producer.
Cassel would go on to appear in six more of Cassavetes’ films, receiving a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance as the hippie Chet in the 1968 drama “Faces.” Other films they worked on together included “Minnie and Moskowitz,” “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” and “Opening Night.”
The 1980s were a rougher period for Cassel, as he fell into substance addition and spent six months in jail for cocaine possession. After going to rehab and getting clean, he found a resurgence in the ’90s with Alexandre Rockwell’s 1992 indie comedy “In the Soup,” which Cassel starred in alongside Steve Buscemi. It was also through Rockwell that Cassel was introduced to the man who would provide him with more famous roles: Wes Anderson.
In 1998, Anderson cast Cassel in his breakthrough film, “Rushmore,” as Bert Fischer, father of the rebellious teenage protagonist Max, played by a debuting Jason Schwartzman. He would go on to have roles in Anderson’s next two films, “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.”
Cassel also had an impact on rock history, as he provided the stage name for legendary Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash. Slash, born Saul Hudson, was a friend of Cassel’s son Matt, and regularly met with the actor during his childhood.
“My best friend’s dad is an actor named Seymour Cassel, and we used to ditch school and hang out at his house and he used to call me Slash and it was just habitual with him,” Slash said in a 2012 interview with Metal Hammer.
“I was on tour in Europe and I happened to run into him and we went to dinner. He told me that he called me Slash, cause I had to ask him, and he says it was always because I was in a hurry, hustling whatever it was I was hustling at the time and never had time to sit and chat,” the musician said. “I was always sort of in passing and he just started calling me Slash.”