25 years ago, in February of 1989, filmmaker John Cassavetes died. One of the greatest actors of his generation, Cassavetes mostly turned his back on appearing in front of the camera in favor of self-financing a series of highly personal, deeply polarizing films that continue to vex critics, actors, directors and audiences alike.
I discovered Cassavetes in a book a long time before I discovered him on a screen. He gave me some good advice at a time when I needed it. Paraphrasing: If you’re the kind of artist who hears a voice and you stop listening to that voice, the voice will stop talking to you. I made major life-decisions based on this advice from an interview in a book and I’ve never regretted it.
I first saw Cassavetes as an actor when I was a kid watching The Dirty Dozen on TV with my dad. I saw the films he wrote and directed much later when a retrospective came to my local art house theater in Nashville. The films were scheduled as double features, but I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to pay for each one. The woman taking tickets told me that if I could sit through the first one, the second one was free.
I love these challenging films and this challenging artist who was so maddeningly unrelenting in his love for his art, his family, his friends and his audience. He loved them all so much he’d accept nothing from them — or us — but the absolute best of ourselves. He expected revelations and he found them. And he filmed them.
Here is the man with his friends and family working on one of his greatest…