To paraphrase a certain politician not too long ago, only in America was Kumar Pallana’s life possible. The actor, who died Thursday at the age of 94, began an unlikely acting career at the age of 80 and appeared in several of Wes Anderson’s films.
Born in 1919 in India, he immigrated to the United States and became a well-known Vaudevillian plate spinner, appearing on the Mickey Mouse Club and Captain Kangaroo in the 1950s and ’60s.
He later settled in the Dallas area and was working in a coffee shop owned by his son when, in the early 1990s, he met a bunch of young aspiring filmmakers by the names of Wes Anderson and Owen, Luke and Andrew Wilson, who would frequent the coffee shop. Anderson started putting Pallana in his student films, and later his features.
Pallana’s biggest part was as Pagoda, Gene Hackman’s butler/spy in “The Royal Tenenbaums,” and he also had memorable turns in “Bottle Rocket,” “Rushmore” and “The Darjeeling Limited.” He even had parts in such non-Anderson films as Steven Spielberg’s “The Terminal”- he played a janitor who ran onto the runway holding a mop- and this year’s M. Night Shyamalan film “After Earth.”