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Actors From Wes Anderson Movies You Didn't Know Were Dead

The cinematic world of Wes Anderson is filled with endless amounts of wit, whimsy and wonder. He has taken audiences on familial, friendly journeys through the halls of a private school, the rooms of a grand hotel, down below the deep blue sea, on train trips across India, in and out of foxholes, and traversing islands — one with a summer camp, and another with trash and dogs.

To help his fantastical ideas leap from page to screen, Anderson has relied on a steady pool of actors to bring his eccentric, moody and highly talkative characters to life. Some have become longtime friends and stable mates, others seasoned veterans he has long admired. 

But as with any filmmaker fortunate enough to work for multiple decades, some of Anderson's most memorable films feature work from actors who have since passed away. With appreciation for their fine work, let's look back on Anderson actors no longer with us.

James Caan

As everyone from Quentin Tarantino to George Lucas will tell you, it's a huge boost when a Hollywood veteran is willing to not only read, but then appear in one of your early films. Anderson (as well as Luke and Owen Wilson) got that big break courtesy of James Caan. 

Anderson and company were having a tough time finding an actor to play the key role of tough guy Mr. Henry in the director's debut film "Bottle Rocket," but as Anderson admits on the DVD commentary, "we were very lucky to get" James Caan, as "we had the same agent." Landing the part proved to be kismet for the Academy Award nominated actor, who was looking to restart his career after a stint in rehab and a run of bad press.

Caan not only was a perfect fit for the role as a twisted mentor to Luke and Owen Wilson's characters, but he also acted as a mentor to the actors themselves. He even incorporated a bit of his own life into the film, showing off his karate skills, and secured a part for his sensei, Tak Kubota. Caan philosophized on the film's title and its meaning, telling the Dallas Observer in 1995, "These guys, see, Anthony and Dignan and Bob, they're bottle rockets. They go a certain distance, then they stop. And that's OK, because they're happy."

While he is perhaps best known for playing Sonny Corleone in the first "Godfather" film, Caan played numerous larger than life characters, from Brian Piccolo in the tearjerker "Brian's Song," to Frank in Michael Mann's "Thief," to the terrorized writer Paul Sheldon in "Misery," as well as Will Ferrell's "Elf" father. 

"I fought to always never be the same person," he told CBS News in 2021 before dying a year later at age 82. "The fun of being an actor is the fun of being somebody else for three months, you know?" 

Kumar Pallana

Kunar Pallana had led a colorful life long before he crossed paths with Wes Anderson; a showman who toured the world, he appeared in films such as "Viva Zapata!," and even dropped in on "The Mickey Mouse Club" and "Captain Kangaroo." But his life changed forever when the young director and the Wilson brothers began hanging out at his Dallas area yoga studio/coffee shop the Cosmic Cup. As a sort of good luck charm, Anderson enlisted the talents of Kumar (and his son Dipak) for his early films.

Pallana would ultimately appear in four of Anderson's pictures, quietly stealing scenes with such unforgettable characters as Kumar in "Bottle Rocket," Mr. LittleJeans in "Rushmore," and Pagoda in "The Royal Tenenbaums." On the latter film's DVD commentary, Anderson explained Pallana's strengths: "Kumar is a performer, but he's not a professional actor, he's done lots of other things. He's a musician, he's kind of an acrobat, and a juggler ... and he also teaches yoga. But for him, acting is something he just does with me."

At the time, that may have been true — but thanks to Anderson, he suddenly became an actor in demand, lending his various talents to such directors as Steven Spielberg ("The Terminal"), John Turturro ("Romance & Cigarettes"), Danny DeVito ("Duplex"), and securing parts in independent films like "10 Items or Less" and "Another Earth."

"Whatever comes, I take it," Pallana told The Believer in 2003. "I think that's the best way to do it. Some people, some actors, they get excited. I'm an old guy. I've been doing this a long time. And I don't hustle and I don't bustle. Your peace of mind is more important."

At the age of 94, Pallana died in 2013.

Seymour Cassel

Veteran character actor Seymour Cassel had a bit of a career renaissance after winning the first ever acting prize at the Sundance Film Festival for 1992's "In the Soup." The film's director, Alexandre Rockwell, introduced the Cassavetes veteran to an up-and-coming director named Wes Anderson who cast him in three straight movies, starting with "Rushmore," then "The Royal Tenenbaums," and lastly in "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou." When asked by The Los Angeles Times in 2009 why Anderson was drawn to him, Cassel replied, "He liked my face."

Cassel's friendly face was a steady presence in those three Anderson films, and his contributions also went to work overtime when the cameras stopped rolling. He played Jason Schwartzman's barber father in "Rushmore," and in the film's audio commentary, Schwartzman said, "off-camera he was sort of like a father-figure ... he was great with giving me pointers and advice ... and we have similar noses." While he was truly a supporting player to the mammoth cast of "The Royal Tenenbaums," Anderson said on that film's audio commentary that Cassel was invaluable to the production, even playing Royal in an early script reading, and being "an acting teacher in a way."

In an almost six decade career, Cassel racked up an impressive resume with hundreds of roles delivered on screens small and large. He was a favorite of director John Cassavetes (Oscar nominated for his role in 1968's "Faces," and the half title star of 1971's "Minnie and Moskowitz"), and appeared in movies as diverse as "Tin Men," "Colors," and "Dick Tracy." He also popped up on plenty of beloved television shows over the years, from "The Twilight Zone" to "Batman," "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and "Flight of the Conchords."

Cassel died from complications from Alzheimer's disease in 2019, at age 84.

Irrfan Khan

When Wes Anderson was laying down the tracks for his fifth movie, the Eastern spiritual train journey "The Darjeeling Limited," he had his mind set on a "great Indian actor named Irrfan Khan, who I just admired in other films, and wanted to work with" (via YouTube). In a small part, and in short order (about "30 seconds"), Khan brought a great quiet stillness to his role of a grieving father. Anderson recalled how he was uneasy at first working with him, as he was such a star, and with Khan unfamiliar with Anderson's work, but after the first day, Khan watched "The Royal Tenenbaums" and liked what he saw (via Searchlight Pictures).

Khan had a vast career in Indian film and television before subsequently becoming a dependable presence in world cinema. Mira Nair had worked with Khan on her 1988 film "Salaam Bombay," but when his part was cut down, she made it up to him by casting him as the patriarch in 2006's "The Namesake."

What followed were memorable parts with a who's who of great modern directors including Michael Winterbottom ("A Mighty Heart"), Anderson, Danny Boyle (Best Picture winner "Slumdog Millionaire"), Ang Lee ("The Life of Pi"), and Ron Howard ("Inferno"). 

"The audiences feel proud when they see me working with Tom Hanks or in 'Jurassic World,'" Khan told The Independent in 2016 about his reception back home. "They have a sense of identity in the international market."

Khan had cancer and died in 2020, at age 53.

Helen McCrory

For all the wonderful roles Helen McCory gave a voice to (a voice The Independent called "rich as pudding, as sharp as a splinter"), a majority of them also put the rest of herself on display on screen too. And yet she cared little about appearances, once saying that many actresses deny themselves roles by unwilling to be unsexy, and that "one interesting thing about acting is trying to lose your ego in the character" (via The Arts Desk). 

One not so pretty part she drank (apple cider) up as was a bit part in "Fantastic Mr. Fox" as the poor eye-sighted wife of antagonist Franklin Bean. In her three decade career, she only had a handful of voice roles, including "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "Loving Vincent," and her last released role, "Charlotte."

McCrory found early success on the British stage, and then popularity on TV in the 2000 miniseries "Anna Karenina," and later on such programs as "Penny Dreadful," "Fearless," and "Peaky Blinders." One of her earliest screen roles was playing a prostitute in "Interview with a Vampire," and she later played mother to Heath Ledger's "Casanova," then to Draco Malfoy in the "Harry Potter" series, Tony Blair's wife Cherie in several films including "The Queen," and worked with Martin Scorsese on "Hugo" and James Bond in "Skyfall."

Her husband, fellow actor Damian Lewis, announced in 2021 on Twitter that "after an heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died peacefully at home," adding "she died as she lived. Fearlessly." She was 52.

Marietta Marich

As the headmaster of Rushmore Academy, Dr. Guggenheim (Brian Cox) may have met his match in the headache known as Max Fischer. Luckily, he had the support and care of his wife, Mrs. Guggenheim, especially after suffering a stroke. Played with sweetness by local Houstonian Marietta Marich, she found a bond with her on screen husband, as her maiden name was Cox, and told The Chronicle in 2007 that they "really got into genealogy."

For Marich, performing ran in her blood, and she excelled at doing so in many forms and mediums. She tried her hand in Hollywood, became disillusioned when they tried to turn her into a cheesecake pin-up, and returned to Texas where she was more at home. Marich made a name for herself in the 1950s and 60s with a late night TV show called "Midnight with Marietta," commanded the local theater stage, and with her husband Bob, founded the Houston Theatre Center. They helped to mentor such young talent as JoBeth Williams, Dennis Quaid, and even their own children.

Marich was also instrumental in landing screen roles for her fellow actors, including Jim Siedow for the 1974 original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" film. She came full circle with the franchise when she played Hewitt matriarch Luda Mae in the 2003 remake and the 2006 prequel, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning." She also appeared in "Leap of Faith," "A Perfect World," and her final screen credit, 2013's "House of Good and Evil."

After complications stemming from an aortic dissection, Marich passed away in 2017, at age 87.

Isabella Blow

In the world of fashion, Isabella Blow was often at the headwinds of spotting trends and helping to push them forward. She was mentored by Anna Wintour, hung out with Warhol and Basquiat, was the fashion editor of Tatler Magazine, helped launch the career of Alexander McQueen, and let her head be the canvas to hat-maker Philip Treacy.

Blow crossed paths with both "Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" director Wes Anderson and co-writer Noah Baumbach while in Paris. They each saw her separately and when they were discussing the mystery eye-catching woman, Anderson was able to confirm she was one in the same by asking Baumbach, "would this woman be out of place in a matador's outfit?'" (via Film School Rejects).

They cast her in a cameo in their collaboration as Antonia Cook, naturally topped with a showy headpiece that landed her a spot on V Magazine's list of most stylish Anderson characters. As the new head of the film society, Cook doesn't exactly put Bill Murray's title character at ease after a screening of his latest picture. Blow relished the part, telling Metro, "I adored it. I had my own trailer. The only thing was I didn't recognize Bill Murray. I said to him: 'Oh, have you ever done this before?' He said, 'Yes I've done about 70 movies.'"

Blow suffered from depression and took her own life in 2007. She was 48.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Greg Goossen

In the urban-set "Royal Tenenbaums," there were several gypsy cab drivers, but there is only one that was tutored by Yogi Berra, teammates with Nolan Ryan in his major league debut, and was Gene Hackman's longtime stand-in for his movies: Greg Goossen.

In an eight-year baseball career, Goossen played for an amazing 37 teams, sprinkled between the major, minor and even Mexican leagues. After his career wrapped up on the diamond, he worked as a private eye, and then joined the family business: Ten Goose Boxing Club. It was there that Gene Hackman trained for the 1988 film "Split Decisions," and asked Greg and his brother Joe to be technical advisors on the film. Greg got a bit part as well, and thereafter found a new career as Hackman's stand-in.

While he spent long hours standing in front of spotlights, Goossen told Sports Illustrated, "it never gets boring. Every day I think how lucky I am to be with Gene Hackman." Hackman told SI, "We're just two honest guys. One of us is very talented. The other's just hangin' in there."

He had 19 mutual credits with Hackman, including bit parts in such hits as "Unforgiven," "The Firm," "Wyatt Earp," "Get Shorty," "Royal Tenenbaums" and their last joint venture, "Runaway Jury." Goossen also landed acting gigs without Hackman, in films as varied as "Mr. Baseball," "Waterworld," and "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."

Goossen died of an apparent heart attack in 2011, at age 65.

Tom Lacy & Keith Charles

When filling in the call sheet for minor "Royal Tenenbaums" roles, local talent was procured for the New York-based film shoot, including stage and screen veterans Tom Lacy and Keith Charles. Both appeared in a brief, but funny scene showing how Royal (Gene Hackman) took advantage of the finances of his minor son (Ben Stiller), and then was disbarred for doing so, with Lacy playing the presiding judge and Charles as Royal's lawyer, who wanted his client to "leave the objections to me."

Tom Lacy was born in New York and had been appearing on Broadway since the later 1960s, alongside stars such as James Coco, Dom DeLuise, Rita Moreno and Laura Linney. He later was a well known associate artist at The Old Globe theatre in San Diego, and logged over 30 screen credits including "The Bob Newhart Show," "The Waltons," "The Jeffersons," "Dallas," "L.A. Law" and "Doc Hollywood." Lacy passed away in 2020 at age 87.

Like his director, Keith Charles was a University of Texas graduate, and after his stint in the army, made his way to New York to pursue a career in acting. His first break came following Jerry Orbach in the narrator role of "The Fantasticks," which is also where he met his wife, the pianist Nancy Ford. He would go on to act in several Broadway and off-Broadway shows, on TV shows like "Guiding Light," "Kate & Allie," and "As The World Turns" and the film "Drop Dead Fred." Charles died in 2008 at age 74.