John Cassavetes Trivia
Educated at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.
Father of Nick Cassavetes, Alexandra Cassavetes and Zoe R. Cassavetes. Son of Katherine Cassavetes.
He was fully Greek in heritage.
As of 2007, he is one of six directors who has directed his wife to a Best Actress Oscar nomination and is the only one to have directed her to two nominations (Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence (1974) & Gloria (1980)).
As of 2007, he is one of only 6 actors to be nominated for Best Directing, Writing, and Acting Oscars over the course of his lifetime. The other 5 are Orson Welles, Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, George Clooney and John Huston.
Directed 3 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Seymour Cassel, Lynn Carlin and Gena Rowlands.
Despite many claiming that his films are improvised, it`s actually a completed script that comes from improvised work by the actors. Another trademark of his films is that they`re shot documentary-style.
Auditioned for The Actors Studio when he was starting out as an actor, but was rejected.
In Ray Carney`s "Cassavetes on Cassavetes" book, Cassavetes confessed to his parents that he wanted to be an actor. His father wasn`t initially thrilled at the idea of his son being an actor, but told him that he had to work hard because he would be portraying human emotions truthfully.
Friend/actor Peter Falk said: "Every Cassavetes film is always about the same thing. Somebody said `Man is God in ruins,` and John saw the ruins with a clarity that you and I could not tolerate."
A photograph of Cassavetes, taken during the production of his film Husbands (1970), appears on one stamp of a sheet of 10 USA 37¢ commemorative postage stamps, issued 25 February 2003, celebrating American Filmmaking: Behind the Scenes. The stamp honors directing.
How Cassavetes used improvisation in films is frequently misunderstood. With the exception of the original version of Shadows, his films were completely scripted. Confusion arises in part because Cassavetes allowed actors to bring their own interpretations of characters to their performances. Dialogue and action were scripted but delivery was not.
Friend/actor Peter Falk said: "Cassavetes was the most fervent man I ever met, and he didn`t have a copy-cat bone in his body."
An alcoholic, Cassavetes died from cirrhosis of the liver in 1989 at the age of 59. He was survived by Rowlands and three children (Nick, Alexandra and Zoe).
At the time of his death, Cassavetes had amassed a collection of more than forty unproduced screenplays, as well as a novel of Husbands.
Cassavetes's son, Nick Cassavetes, followed in his father's footsteps as an actor and director. In 1997, Nick Cassavetes made the film She's So Lovely from the She's Delovely screenplay his father had written. The film starred Sean Penn, as John Cassavetes had wanted. Alexandra Cassavetes directed the documentary, Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession in 2004 and in 2006 served as 2nd Unit Director on her brother Nick's film Alpha Dog. John Cassavetes's younger daughter, Zoe Cassavetes, wrote and directed the 2007 film, Broken English, featuring Rowlands and Parker Posey.
John Cassavetes screened the movie in 1957 and 1958, but because of poor response he went back and re-shot about half of the film in 1959. The first version of the film was believed to be lost for almost 50 years. In the mid-1980s Prof. Ray Carney began his search for the film after talking to Cassavetes about the first version. Carney searched almost everywhere but was led to dead ends for 20 years. Finally, in 2002, he was contacted by a woman who said her father, a junk dealer, had a cardboard box with a film called "Shadows". It turned out to be the first version and not the second one. The print was in pristine condition.
John Cassavetes' directorial debut.
Iconoclastic radio personality Jean Shepherd helped John Cassavetes raise money to make the movie by having Cassavetes on his show as one of his rare guests in February 1957. Shepherd loaned Cassavetes his assistant Ellen Paulos to help with the film. The thankful Cassavetes expressed his thanks in the opening credits of the movie. A title reads: "Presented by Jean Shepherd's Night People." (The Night People were members of what the New York Times in the late 1950s called the "cult" of Shepherd listeners.) Shepherd also appears in a crowd sequence in the film, smoking a cigarette. Paulos also appears in the film.
Film debut of Tom Reese (billed under his real name of Tom Allen).
John Cassavetes was the guest on a Manhattan radio show, promoting Johnny Staccato. Somehow the conversation moved into making a feature film, and Cassavetes told listeners that if he were to make a feature film, they should donate a dollar or two by sending it to the station. A few days later, a surprised Cassavetes had received a couple of thousand dollars from listeners sending money to the station, which he put toward the making of this film.
John Cassavetes' estate, which is managed by his widow Gena Rowlands, has categorically denied that the alternate version discovered by Professor Carney is real, despite Carney posting several clips on his website.
Film critic Leonard Maltin describes this film as being "a watershed in the birth of American independent cinema".
Shot with a 16mm handheld camera on the streets of New York. Most of the dialog was improvised, while all the crew were fellow class members of John Cassavetes or volunteers.
Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1993.
Walkouts were quite high during the film's initial run, as many audience members were unused to its improvisatory nature.
During one of his regular acting workshop sessions, John Cassavetes recognized in one particular improvised skit the premise for a potentially good film. Over several years he developed the plot in his workshops, employing many of his young students in his film.
Made for only $40,000.
For the soundtrack, Cassavetes worked with jazz composer and musician Charles Mingus and Shafi Hadi to provide the score. Mingus's friend, Diane Dorr-Dorynek, described Cassavetes' approach to film-making in jazz terms: "The script formed the skeleton around which the actors might change or ad lib lines according to their response to the situation at the moment, so that each performance was slightly different. A jazz musician works in this way, using a given musical skeleton and creating out of it, building a musical whole related to a particular moment by listening to and interacting with his fellow musicians. Jazz musicians working with actors could conceivably provide audiences with some of the most moving and alive theater they have ever experienced."
John Cassavetes has a cameo as a pedestrian who saves Lelia from a potential molester, while Gena Rowlands appears briefly in a nightclub scene.
This caused a stir as it fairly explicitly showed an unmarried couple in a post-coital position and its suggestion that a young woman would actively seek out sex.
After winning the Critic's Award at the Venice Film Festival, it was picked up for distribution by British Lion and exhibited in the United States.
When the first version of the film was shown at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2004, it was the first time that particular version had been screened in 45 years.
The love scene was shot in the apartment of Katharine Hepburn's brother.
Too Late Blues (1961)
Montgomery Clift was originally going to play the lead role of Ghost.
Allyson Ames's first film.
A Child Is Waiting (1963)
When original director Jack Clayton was forced to withdraw due to a scheduling problem, he was replaced by John Cassavetes, was still under contract to Paramount Pictures, on the recommendation of screenwriter Abby Mann
Director John Cassavetes (for whom this was his first major studio production) and Producer Stanley Kramer had many creative / economic differences and during the editing phase, Cassavetes was fired.
While filming a part on Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, John Cassavetes saw Steven Spielberg lurking around the set, as he was then in the habit of doing. Cassavetes approached Spielberg and asked what he wanted to be. When Spielberg replied he wanted to be a director, Cassavetes allowed the young man to direct him for the day. He later invited Spielberg to work on this film (Faces), Spielberg serving as an uncredited production assistant for two weeks.
Cassavetes disowned the film, although following its release he said, "I didn't think [Kramer's] film - and that's what I consider it to be, his film - was so bad, just a lot more sentimental than mine."
Shot in John Cassavetes's home.
Actors doubled as set grips.
Probably one of the first films in cinema history to talk openly about cunnilingus.
Around this time, Cassavetes formed "Faces International" as a distribution company to handle all of his films.
It is generally assumed that, after creating the general release print, Cassavetes destroyed the alternate versions
Two different versions of this film are known to exist. It was initially premiered in Toronto with a running time of 183 minutes, before Cassavetes' cut it down to 130 minutes. Though the 130-minute version is the general release version, a print of a longer version with a running time of 147 minutes was accidentally found by Ray Carney, and was deposited at the Library of Congress. 17 minutes of this print was included in the Criterion box set John Cassavetes: Five Films, though Carney has said that there are numerous differences between the two films.
The scene at the bar where Leola Harlow tries to sing "It Was Just a Little Love Affair" and is repeatedly interrupted and harshly criticized by the drunken three main characters, was completely improvised. Harlow reportedly had no idea that they were filming and thought the lead actors were actually criticizing her performance in the scene, causing the very real hurt apparent in her performance.
Cassavetes needed to cut an hour and a half from the film in order to shorten it to its contractual requirement of 140 minutes. Columbia cut another eleven minutes in response to negative reviews, which was restored upon DVD release in August 2009. The remaining 85 minutes remains lost.
Minnie and Moskowitz (1971)
In 1964 Seymour Cassel appeared as a parking attendant on a segment of the series Who Killed Annie Foran?, which co-starred John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands.
Several months after the film's release, Universal Studios decided to shorten the running time by cutting out a scene near the beginning of the film, even though it violated their contract with Cassavetes. All releases since that time are missing this scene.
A Woman Under The Influence (1974)
John Cassavetes, could not find any distributor for this film after completion, and was at one point literally carrying the reels of the film under his arm from one theater to another in hopes of getting one to play his movie. Finally, Martin Scorcese, who had recently become a critically acclaimed director thanks to his film Mean Streets and happened to be a huge fan of Cassavetes' work threatened to pull his film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore from a major New York film festival unless they accepted this film.
Cassavetes initially wrote the film as a play but Gena Rowlands talked him out of it, stating that the role would be far too harrowing and exhausting to play night after night.
Last film of Elsie Ames.
On the Mike Douglas Show, Richard Dreyfuss claimed that he found the film so harrowing when he first saw it that it caused him to vomit, which prompted curious audiences to seek out the film capable of making Dreyfuss ill.
To help fund the film, John Cassavetes remortgaged his home. Peter Falk also invested $500,000 earnings from Columbo.
Upon completion of the film, Cassavetes was unable to find a distributor, so he personally called theater owners and asked them to run the film. It was booked into art houses and shown on college campuses, where Cassavetes and Falk discussed it with the audience.
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)
This was actually a story idea developed by John Cassavetes and Martin Scorsese years previously.
Ben Gazzara was unhappy with the role initially, unable to find a way to connect to Cosmo Vitelli. That changed when shooting a scene, Cassavetes spoke to Gazzara about the gangsters in the film as a metaphor for the people who are constantly trying to steal or ruin people's dreams. Cassavetes started to cry and Gazzara saw that playing Cosmo was representing John Cassavetes and the movie was a metaphor for the director's struggles for his own dreams.
Opening Night (1977)
Peter Falk, Seymour Cassel, and Peter Bogdanovich all make cameos in the opening night scene.
The title character's name Gloria Swenson, is almost identical to that of actress Gloria Swanson.
Gena Rowlands and Lawrence Tierney played husband and wife in A Child Is Waiting, both Gloria and that film were directed by John Cassavetes as Hollywood productions.
Cassavetes did not originally intend to direct his screenplay; he planned merely to sell the story to Columbia Pictures. However, once his wife, Gena Rowlands, was asked to play the title character in the film, she asked Cassavetes to direct it.
Love Streams (1984)
The film is based on the 1980 play of the same name by Ted Allan but the correlation between the screenplay and the play is minimal.
The visual style of the film is decidedly different from Cassavetes' other works, as it contains no hand-held camera work.
Much of the film was shot inside of Cassavetes' personal home.
Jon Voight originated the role of Robert Harmon in the stage play and was originally slated to reprise his role in the film, but left the production due to scheduling conflicts and "creative differences" with Cassavetes.
Love Streams was released in the theaters with a running time of 141 minutes. It was briefly available on videotape in the mid-80s, in a version cut to 122 minutes by the distributor; one scene was edited and several unusual visual effects (the insertion of black leader and jump cuts) were removed. In 2003, it was released on DVD in France in its entirety.
Big Trouble (1986)
John Cassavetes' last film as director.
Cassavetes took over during filming from Andrew Bergman who wrote the original screenplay. Cassavetes came to refer to the film as "the aptly titled 'Big Trouble'", since the studio vetoed many of his decisions for the film and eventually edited most of the film in a way which Cassavetes disagreed with.
Robert Stack's real-life wife Rosemarie Stack plays his on-screen wife.