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Gena Rowlands

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Also Known As: Virginia Cathryn Rowlands Died:
Born: June 19, 1930 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Cambria, Wisconsin, USA Profession: actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

When actress Gena Rowlands arrived in Hollywood in the 1950s, she could easily have opted to take the Hollywood starlet route. But she shared a creative vision with filmmaker and husband John Cassavetes; preferring instead to use her stunning, camera-loving facial features and natural acting style in unglamorous roles in groundbreaking independent films that launched an entire movement. Devoted to the idea of unearthing complex human emotions rather than painting characters with a one-dimensional Hollywood brush, Rowlands was a key factor in Cassavetes' low budget, documentary-style dramas "Faces" (1968), "A Woman Under the Influence" (1974) and "Opening Night" (1977). Whether playing a suburban housewife or a successful entertainer, Rowlands took risks with unconventional characters who dared to look inwards and question the unfulfilled promises of the status quo. From her acclaimed, Oscar-nominated roles on the 1970s art house circuit, Rowlands spent her later career lending authenticity to more mainstream fare, with Golden Globe and Emmy-winning roles as eccentric mothers and middle-aged women in crisis in television movies and theatrical releases.

When actress Gena Rowlands arrived in Hollywood in the 1950s, she could easily have opted to take the Hollywood starlet route. But she shared a creative vision with filmmaker and husband John Cassavetes; preferring instead to use her stunning, camera-loving facial features and natural acting style in unglamorous roles in groundbreaking independent films that launched an entire movement. Devoted to the idea of unearthing complex human emotions rather than painting characters with a one-dimensional Hollywood brush, Rowlands was a key factor in Cassavetes' low budget, documentary-style dramas "Faces" (1968), "A Woman Under the Influence" (1974) and "Opening Night" (1977). Whether playing a suburban housewife or a successful entertainer, Rowlands took risks with unconventional characters who dared to look inwards and question the unfulfilled promises of the status quo. From her acclaimed, Oscar-nominated roles on the 1970s art house circuit, Rowlands spent her later career lending authenticity to more mainstream fare, with Golden Globe and Emmy-winning roles as eccentric mothers and middle-aged women in crisis in television movies and theatrical releases.

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
3.
 Olive (2011)
4.
 Broken English (2007)
6.
 Persepolis (2007)
7.
 Skeleton Key, The (2005) Cast
8.
 Notebook, The (2004) Allie Calhoun
9.
 Taking Lives (2004) Mrs Asher
10.
 Incredible Mrs. Ritchie, The (2003) Mrs Evelyn Ritchie
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Born and raised in Wisconsin
:
Won scholarship to study at Jarvis Repertory Theatre in Washington, DC
1950:
Moved to NYC to attend AADA
1951:
Was mistress of ceremonies in "All About Love" at the Versailles Night Club Theatre in Manhattan
:
Worked off-Broadway at the Provincetown Playhouse and in stock
1952:
Made Broadway debut as understudy for the role of The Girl in "The Seven Year Itch"; later assumed part
1953:
Appeared in off-Broadway production of "Dangerous Corner"
1954:
Made debut as TV regular on the syndicated series "Top Secret USA"
1956:
Starred on Broadway in "Middle of the Night" with Edward G. Robinson
1958:
Film acting debut, "The High Cost of Loving"
1961:
Played regular role on "87th Precinct" (NBC)
1962:
First collaboration with Cassavetes as director, "A Child Is Waiting"
1967:
Featured as Adrienne Van Leyden on ABC nighttime soap opera "Peyton Place"
1968:
Won acclaim for her role in Cassavetes' "Faces"
1974:
Starred opposite Peter Falk in Cassavetes' "A Woman Under the Influence"; earned Best Actress Oscar nomination
1977:
Offered a nuanced turn as a troubled actress in "Opening Night"; film only released for Oscar consideration in L.A.; screened at the New York Film Festival in 1988; released theatrically in 1991
1978:
First TV-movie, played lesbian fighting for custody of her children in "A Question of Love" (ABC)
1979:
Teamed with Bette Davis, playing Davis' estranged daughter in the CBS drama "Strangers: The Story of a Mother and a Daughter"
1980:
Picked up second Best Actress Oscar nomination as a gun moll in "Gloria"
1982:
Acted opposite Cassavetes in Paul Mazursky's "Tempest," a loose re-working of Shakespeare's play
1984:
Last feature collaboration with Cassavetes, "Love Streams"
1986:
Cast as the mother of an AIDS-stricken lawyer in "An Early Frost"; received first Emmy nomination
1987:
Won an Emmy for her portrayal of the former First Lady in the ABC biopic "The Betty Ford Story"
1988:
Starred in Woody Allen's "Another Woman" as sheltered woman forced to confront her life choices
1991:
Picked up second Emmy Award as a Manhattan socialite who befriends a homeless woman in the CBS TV-movie "Face of a Stranger"
1991:
Played a cab passenger driven by Winona Ryder in Jim Jarmusch's "Night on Earth"
1995:
Cast as Julia Roberts' mother in "Something to Talk About"
1995:
Delivered a fine turn as the eccentric Southern aunt of a young boy in "The Neon Bible"
1996:
Directed by son Nick Cassavetes in "Unhook the Stars"; won critical praise as a widow who befriends her neighbor's son
1997:
Again directed by son in "She's So Lovely," a previously un-produced screenplay by John Cassavetes
1998:
Starred as Sandra Bullock's mother in "Hope Floats"
1998:
Had featured role in "The Mighty"
1998:
Co-starred with Diane Lane in the TV version of the stage play "Grace & Glorie" (CBS)
1998:
Appeared in the ensemble drama "Playing by Heart"
2000:
Earned fourth career Emmy nomination playing a Southern grandmother in "The Color of Love: Jacey's Story" (CBS)
2000:
Played Brooke Shields' overbearing mother in the independent film "The Weekend"
2002:
Acted in "Hysterical Blindness" (HBO); screened at Sundance; received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress
2004:
Cast in the thriller "Taking Lives"
2004:
Starred opposite James Garner in "The Notebook," directed by son Nick Cassavetes
2005:
Starred opposite Kate Hudson in the supernatural thriller the "Skeleton Key"
2007:
Portrayed a terminally ill woman in the Lifetime original movie "What if God Were the Sun?"; earned Emmy and SAG nominations for Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie
2007:
Co-starred in daughter Zoe Cassavetes' directorial debut "Broken English"
2009:
Earned an Emmy nomination for her guest starring role as a moderately compulsive surrogate mother to the main character on an episode of "Monk" (USA Network)
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

University of Wisconsin: Madison , Wisconsin - 1947 - 1950
American Academy of Dramatic Arts: New York , New York - 1950 - 1951

Notes

"I'd never worked with Gena so it was a golden opportunity. We've both had a similar pattern of experiences as actors." --"Playing by Heart" co-star Sean Connery to The Boston Globe, January 17, 1999.

"I think now that I look back on it, the key was we were both so obsessed about wanting the same thing. We also just had a natural chemistry between the two of us, which was so apparent at the beginning and lasted until the end. . . . No one believed in me more as an artist than my husband did."---Rowlands on her marriage to John Cassavetes to Cindy Pearlman of The Chicago SunTimes January 21, 1999

"I love independent filmmaking. I don't agree with a lot of it, but that's not the point. People in independent film have a passion; they're not in it for the money. I'm very proud that John [Cassavetes] had a part in it."---Gena Rowlands quoted in Premiere's "Women in Hollywood" issue, 1999.

"Glamour was NEVER my game. I just HATE that thing about beauty. There's always someone out there better looking or worse looking. Beauty and glamour are not real things. To depend on them is very hard on anyone, but particularly hard for attractive girls." --Rowlands quoted in W, May 1998.

"Their personalities are not alike. John's much more volatile and all over the place - noisier too. Nick is a bit quieter. He handles everything with humour. But one thing I notice is that they both adore actors and have the utmost patience with them. I was happy to see that and, believe me, it's not always the case.

"The main difference is that there was no improvisation in Nick's film. One day I didn't get one of the lines quite right. It would have passed in most places. But Nick is very precise about language. John, on the other hand, dictated his scripts. He very seldom wrote them down. He had a writing secretary who was with him for many years. It always amazed me. He had the most formidable memory I have ever encountered."---Rowlands on the differences between being directed by her husband and her son, to the London Times July 7, 1997

"I don't see how anyone has the patience to direct anything. I know it's a question of temperament but to me it would be torture. People ask you questions all day long, and not particularly interesting ones.

"The art director is saying, 'Do you think that the colour of this suit is all right?', and the photographer is saying, 'I think we should gel the windows', and an actor is saying, 'I don't want to wear make-up.' These are questions that would make me want to shoot myself in the head. Not creative, wonderful questions about your character. So you have to have extreme love and patience, and I don't have that." --Rowlands to the London Times, July 3, 1997.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
John Cassavetes. Director, actor. Married from March 19, 1958 until his death on February 3, 1989.
companion:
Robert Forrest.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Edwin Merwin Rowlands. Banker, senator. Was Wisconsin State Senator.
mother:
Mary Allen Rowlands. Painter, actor. Appeared in "Minnie and Moskowitz" and other films; died on May 28, 1999 at age 94.
brother:
David Rowlands. Physician.
son:
Nicholas Cassavetes. Actor, director. Born on May 21, 1959 in NYC.
daughter:
Alexandra Cassavetes. Songwriter. Born on September 21, 1965 in California.
daughter:
Zoe Cassavetes. Actor, filmmaker, model. Born on June 29, 1970 in California.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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