An Interview With Nick Cassavetes of "She's So Lovely"
by Tom Cunha
Having donned the title of thespian for the last decade or so, Nick
Cassavetes has only recently emerged into full-time filmmaker status.
The son of the late auteur extraordinare John Cassavetes, Nick rightfully
earned his credentials by writing and directing last year’s "Unhook the Stars", which wonderfully showcases his mother, the radiant Gena Rowlands. Nick continues to ascend as filmmaker with the just released "She’s So Lovely". Scripted by his father, the movie is an off beat romance flick that centers around a love-crazed husband and wife, played by real life better-halves Sean Penn and Robin Wright Penn. While Nick is undoubtedly fielding a storm of offers at present, his interest continues to lie
with independent projects that stir him on emotional and/or intellectual
indieWIRE: You’ve said that there are many unproduced John Cassavetes
scripts, what inspired you to direct "She’s So Lovely"?
NICK CASSAVETES: I liked it. I liked the notion of unbridled love and it
was a very politically incorrect story which appealed to my
iW: This is a relatively small film for stars like John Travolta and
Sean Penn. How did they become involved with it?
Cassavetes: Sean had liked this project for a long time. He and Dad were going
to make it at one particular point, but it didn’t work out. (Dad) died
and left the project to me. I optioned it to Sean for a couple of years
and couldn’t get the film made. Then it came back to me. After I made
"Unhook the Stars", I was looking for another film to do. I decided this
would be the one to do. I went to Sean and asked him, out of respect to
him because he had loved the part originally. I said to him, “I’m gonna
do this movie, do you want to do it?” He said, “Ya. I’d love to do it
with Robin.” So we talked about that for awhile and we talked to Robin,
and they were in.
iW: And John Travolta?
Cassavetes: John was different. John came in a little later. We slipped him the
script and he read it. John had always been a big fan of Dad’s work, so
I thought maybe we’d have a chance to get him. He read the script and
loved it. I think he was going through that business with Polanski back
then and so he just kind of became available. Usually you have to wait a
couple of years to get John. He became available and we were in
production. It was very easy.
iW: Did you feel pressure to meet certain expectations because it was a
script that your father had written?
Cassavetes: No, not really. The script was so good. You don’t go into work
everyday going, “Gosh, I better do good. Dad would have been really
disappointed if I didn’t.” There is so much to do on a film and so
little time to do it. You just go in and try to do the best job you can
everyday. I remember one day on the set I was sitting there and things
were going well and we were on schedule and the performances were great.
The notion came to myself, “Gosh, this is going to be my favorite film I
ever do. Here it is. I’m in it. I’m experiencing it. My mother is in the
film, three wonderful actors and a script of my Dad’s.” It doesn’t get a
whole lot better than that.
iW: Did you have any trepidation about working with a real life husband
and wife, considering the emotional intensity that their roles required?
Cassavetes: No. My Mom and Dad did it pretty good, so I know it can work. The
foremost thing I would say about working with Robin and Sean is that
they were devoted to this project and devoted to their characters. You
can’t ask for any more from talented actors like that.
iW: Having worked so many years as an actor, how has that influenced
your work as a director? Do you allow more freedom with your actors?
Cassavetes: Sometimes. I try to. I’m probably in the minority among filmmakers
because I really like actors. I like their complications and
insecurities and their desire to do something terrific and artistic. I
like to give my actors a lot of room. Basically what you do as a
director is you talk to your actors, set up the situation, set up the
moment, and talk to them until they say, “Nick, I don’t want to listen
to you anymore.” And then you talk to them a little bit more. When they
are prepared emotionally and intellectually you turn the camera on and
let them go. I really like actors, so I guess I’m glad I was one. I went
back and did “Face/Off” as an actor after this.
To read the rest of this interview, click here.
[Tom Cunha is an assistant research editor at Movieline Magazine in Los