Thursday, May 19

John Cassavetes: One Of A Kind

The most difficult thing in the world is to reveal yourself, to express what you have to. As an artist, I feel that we must try many things – but above all we must dare to fail. You must be willing to risk everything to really express it all. -John Casavetes

John Casavetes was a superb actor, director and writer. He had tremendous passion for his art and took many risks to ensure that his vision was realized. As an actor he invested all of himself in every role he played. He displayed the same passion in the writing and directing of his films, all of them possessing a unique vitality. When his bio, “Accidental Genius”, hit the bookstores I rushed out to buy a copy. One of the stories concerned his relentless desire to get his “shot” no matter how long it took

Casavetes was known for his generosity. If he thought you had “something” he would would not hesitate to cast you in one of his films. In the early days when money was tight he made certain that everyone on his set was involved in the making of his film. One day you might be holding the boom mike, the next day the camera, the next day, you might be stand-in. During one of his early shoots he was struggling with a scene that was not coming together. Val Avery, a wonderful character actor who had a role in the film, was growing impatient. It had been a long day and he was eager to wrap and go home.The hour was getting late and although Cassavetes had done a number of takes he still wasn’t satisfied. Avery, who was reaching his boiling point turned to Cassavetes and told him that he had to leave. Casavetes pleaded with him for “just one more take” but Avery was determined to go. Cassavetes managed to detain him for a moment while he gave an in conspicuous nod to fellow actor and best friend Seymour Cassel, who eased off of the set unnoticed. A short while later Cassel returned to the set. Avery, was not interested in discussing the matter any further with Cassevetes and left. Moments later he stormed into the room, shouting at the top of his lungs, “You son-of-a-bitch. You let the air out of my tires.” He had devised old means of detaining Avery so that he could finally get his shot.

Casavetes like so many fine directors was obsessed with making the movie he wanted to make. When he was dissatisfied with a scene he kept at it until the desired result was achieved. Good directors seem to have one thing in common, an obsessive nature in the pursuit of excellence. They are not satisfied with ho-hum results. They have invested too much of themselves in the making of their film to accept mediocrity in themselves or anyone else. No doubt one of the things that contributed to Cassavetes success was that he dared to fail.