Seymour Cassel stars in "Magic City" on Starz.

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 and early 1960s. As for Cassel, after his uncredited role in "Shadows," he co-starred with Cassavetes in T"he Webster Bo"y (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 filmmaking, 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 the TV movie "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.


How tall is he? How old is he? Find out here.

Age: 82 years old
Birthday: January 22, 1935
Height: 5' 7 ¾"
Birthplace: Detroit, MI
Wife: Elizabeth Deering (3/14/1964 - 1983, separated, 2 children)

'Magic City' Heats Up Miami Beach — Premiering Friday, April 6, the new Starz drama, set in a glamorous 1950s hotel, stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Olga Kurylenko and Danny Huston. Read more...

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