Gena Rowlands, who turns 85 today, is a cinema nonpareil who showed many faces in the films of her husband: a broken-down housewife in “A Woman Under the Influence,” a washed-up thespian in “Opening Night,” a desperate call-girl in “Faces.”
Cassavetes originally wrote “A Woman Under the Influence,” the raw story of a lovably mad housewife who is also a danger to herself, as a play for his muse and partner. But it proved to be too exhausting for a stage production and so the maverick indie director turned to family and friends, including Peter Falk, who co-stars in the film as Rowlands’ patient husband, for money and rounded up AFI students to make this volatile film that nabbed them both Oscar nominations.
Listen below to a rare 90-minute interview about the film, and filmmaking. This was Rowlands fifth pairing with Cassavetes after “Shadows,” “A Child Is Waiting,” “Faces” and “Minnie and Moskowitz.” Together they would go on to make some of the most startling films of the century, from “Opening Night” to “Love Streams.”