Birthday: January 22, 1935 Birth
Place: Detroit, Michigan, USA Height: 5' 7"
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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's "Faces" (1968), studied acting at the American Theatre Wing and at the Actor's 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 '60s. As for Cassel, after his uncredited role in "Faces," he co-starred with Cassavetes in the feature films "The Webster Boy" (1962) and the feature "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. ("The Killers" was 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" as well as appeared on such popular programs as "Twelve O'Clock High," "Combat!" and "The F.B.I." before scoring with his aging hippie in "Faces" (1968) at the end of that tumultuous decade.Along with "Shadows," "Faces" remains his favorite Cassavettes film. In addition to acting, Cassel worked as 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 an indie financed by Cassavettes himself, there were no union regulations to deal with, nor a studio schedule to keep."Faces" was shot in continuity, which improved the actors' performances as they could develop a character logically, in sequence, by playing it out as if on stage,rather than being forced into the "piecework" that is typical of a film whose script is shot out of sequence. Cassel believes that this technique, which Cassavettes used on his subsequent films, enhanced the success of his works by eliminating the "fourth wall" between the audience and the actors. Acting tells the film's story, not the images, according to Cassel; 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 "A Very Special Place," 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). (Although he didn't appear in Cassavetes' greatest success of the 1970s, "A Woman Under the Influence," his son, Matthew, did.) John Cassavetes died in 1989 and is still sorely missed by the American cinema's creative community.In addition to appearing in studio films, Cassel has remained prominent in the American indie community since the death of his friend and collaborator. He contributed a cameo appearance to Steve Buscemi's directorial debut "Trees Lounge" (with whom he appeared with as a co-star in the black comedy "In the Soup") and has appeared in three films by Wes Anderson: "Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "The Life Acquatic with Steve Zissou".Cassel is prized by indie directors for two things: his positive nature, and his (perhaps) facetious declaration that he'd make any indie whose script he liked for the price of a plane ticket. Cassel goes into projects with the feeling "I'm gonna have a good time in what I'm doing. I entertain myself when I perform. If I do that, then I can see the other performers enjoying my character."Cassel prefers indies because of the greater freedom and more collaborative nature of indie film, particularly indie directors' openness to the contributions of supporting players. "It's not one or two stars," Cassel has said, "and all about kissing their ass through the film, taking them from this scene to that scene then going to play golf or whatever. The real challenge is to try to make something happen dramatically in a scene with less money, and doing it with some truth. I like the excitement of not having enough money, enough film, enough time to do it, and still trying to make it work."