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John Cassavetes Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (2) | Trivia (26) | Personal Quotes (12)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 9 December 1929New York City, New York, USA
Date of Death 3 February 1989Los Angeles, California, USA  (cirrhosis of the liver)
Birth NameJohn Nicholas Cassavetes
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)

Mini Bio (1)

John Cassavetes was born on December 9, 1929 in New York City, New York, USA as John Nicholas Cassavetes. He was an actor and director, known for Rosemary's Baby (1968), The Dirty Dozen (1967) and Opening Night (1977). He was married to Gena Rowlands. He died on February 3, 1989 in Los Angeles, California, USA.

Spouse (1)

Gena Rowlands (9 April 1954 - 3 February 1989) (his death) (3 children)

Trade Mark (2)

Extreme close-ups, with the image going in and out of focus
Realistic, documentary-like films

Trivia (26)

Father of Nick Cassavetes, Xan Cassavetes and Zoe R. Cassavetes. Son of Nicholas John Cassavetes and Katherine Cassavetes.
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."
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.
Educated at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945-1985". Pages 189-194. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
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.'.
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.
He was fully Greek in heritage.
Auditioned for The Actors Studio when he was starting out as an actor, but was rejected.
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.
He and Gena Rowlands made ten movies together: A Child Is Waiting (1963), Faces (1968), Machine Gun McCain (1969), Minnie and Moskowitz (1971), A Woman Under the Influence (1974), Two-Minute Warning (1976), Opening Night (1977), Gloria (1980), Tempest (1982) and Love Streams (1984).
Directed 3 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Seymour Cassel, Lynn Carlin and Gena Rowlands.
He and his good friend Ben Gazzara made 5 movies together: Husbands (1970), Capone (1975), If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969), Opening Night (1977) and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)
He and close friend Peter Falk made six movies together: Machine Gun McCain (1969), Husbands (1970), A Woman Under the Influence (1974), Mikey and Nicky (1976), Opening Night (1977), Big Trouble (1986), and one movie made for TV: Columbo: Étude in Black (1972).
As of 2007, he is one of only eight filmmakers to be nominated for best directing, writing, and acting Oscars over the course of their lifetime. The other seven are Orson Welles, Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, George Clooney, Roberto Benigni, John Huston and Kenneth Branagh.
Son-in-law of Lady Rowlands.
Brother-in-law of David Rowlands.
As of 2013, he is one of six men who has directed his wife to a Best Actress Oscar nomination, and is the only one to have directed her to two such nominations (Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence (1974) and Gloria (1980)). The other five are Paul Czinner directing Elisabeth Bergner in Escape Me Never (1935), Paul Newman directing Joanne Woodward in Rachel, Rachel (1968), Richard Brooks directing Jean Simmons in The Happy Ending (1969), Blake Edwards directing Julie Andrews in Victor Victoria (1982), and Joel Coen directing Frances McDormand in Fargo (1996). Jules Dassin also directed his future wife Melina Mercouri in a Best Actress Oscar-nominated performance (Never on Sunday (1960)), though they were not yet married at the time of the nomination.
One of the screening rooms at the Thessaloniki Film Festival is named after him.
Dropped out of university to become a sports announcer.
Adhered to the Stanislavsky School of Method Acting and taught acting classes in 1956 prior to making the film Shadows (1959) .
Acted in films by other directors in order to finance his own projects.
While some of his Hollywood films (such as Too Late Blues (1961)) lost money, his own movies were often hugely successful. Shadows (1959), filmed with non-professional actors on the streets of New York with a hand-held camera on 16mm black & white film, cost a mere $40,000 and recouped its cost many times over, winning the 1960 Critics Award at the Venice Film Festival. Another of his films, Faces (1968), cost $1 million and made ten times as much in profits, as well as taking out another five prizes in Venice in 1970.
Actor and film director who was regarded as a pioneer of American cinema verité.
The New Yorker magazine said in 2013 that Cassavetes "may be the most influential American director of the last half century" --this on the eve of the screening of all of the films he directed, at the BAM Theater in Brooklyn, NY throughout July 2013.
Retrospective: Screening of all the films Cassavetes directed, plus some he acted in, at Brooklyn Academy of Music, July 6-31. [July 2013]

Personal Quotes (12)

I'm sort of my own Mafia, you know, breaking my own knees.
There's a difference between ad-libbing and improvising. And there's a difference between not knowing what to do and just saying something. Or making choices as an actor. As a writer also, as a person who's making a film, as a cameraman, everything is a choice. And it seems to me I don't really have to direct anyone or write down that somebody's getting drunk; all I have to do is say that there's a bottle there and put a bottle there and then they're going to get drunk. I don't want to tell them how they're going to get drunk. I don't want to tell them how they're going to get drunk, or what they would do, and I don't want to restrict them in being able to carry out a beat, to fulfill an action. You can't say somebody's drunk, or in love.
Ricardo Montalban is to improvisational acting what Mount Rushmore is to animation.
As an artist, I feel that we must try many things - but above all we must dare to fail.
People have forgotten how to relate or respond; what I'm trying to do with my movies is build something audiences can respond to.
When I started making films, I wanted to make Frank Capra pictures. But I've never been able to make anything but these crazy, tough pictures. You are what you are.
Say what you are. Not what you would like to be. Not what you have to be. Just say what you are. And what you are is good enough.
Everyone has made a love, religion, god. Time magazine had the audacity to kill God and those people are floundering and walking around the world with nothing in their lives, simply because they are not led by anybody with responsibility.
In the last couple of decades or so, something has happened to the American dream. I don't quite know what it is, and it's still not very clear in my mind. Confusion has replaced patriotism. The intellect has replaced love. If something doesn't make money, no one is interested. Everything is for sale. Emotions are sold. Sex is sold. Everything is sex. Cars, women, clothes, your face, your hands, your shoes! Look at the ads, at television. My emotions aren't for sale. My thoughts can't be bought. They're mine. I don't want movies that sell me something. I don't want to be told how to feel.
[on Gena Rowlands] She and I have friction in terms of lifestyle and taste. We agree in taste on nothing. She thinks so totally opposite to anything I would ever conceive!
I'm not really a director. I'm a man who believes in the validity of a person's inner desires. And I think those inner desires, whether they're ugly or beautiful, are pertinent to each of us and are probably the only things worth a damn. I want to put those inner dreams on the screen so we can all look and think and feel and marvel at them.
I'm not part of anything. I never joined anything. I could work anywhere.

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