John Cassavetes starred in Roman Polanski’s 1968 satanic smash, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, in which he portrayed a struggling New York actor who sells his infant to the devil in exchange for a successful stage career. Now Cassavetes and Polanski didn’t have much in common besides being filmmakers, their morals and cinematic visions being at polar opposites. Their personality differences led to heated on-set arguments with the most notorious one involving Polanski boasting about his extramarital affairs to Cassavetes, who happened to be a faithful devoted husband. Instead of feeding Roman’s insecure narcissistic ego, John didn’t hesitate to put him back in his place.
Afterwards, passive aggressive behavior began to plague the film shoot. For instance, when Cassavetes tried to offer some advice on how to improve a scene, Polanski would brush him off, saying that Cassavetes wasn’t even a real filmmaker!
And yet, by ‘68 John Cassavetes had a few movies under his belt as a director, including the innovative ‘Shadows’. But because they were not to Polanski’s liking, he just didn’t consider him his equal despite John being an innovative filmmaker, not only starting a new cinematic movement (improvisational cinema vérité) but also fathering a kid who became a film director himself. Whoa! Hold that thought… Not just one kid, but two! Wait! Better make that three! All of whom make movies!!
Now try to beat that, Polanski!
Besides recreating versions of himself, Cassavetes was known for his passion for his wife, Gena Rowlands, as well as his constant boozing from dusk till dawn. Bizarrely, nobody knew he had a drinking problem because, sober or drunk, his personality never changed. He remained generous to his actors on film sets, trusting their improvisational skills and giving them carte blanche. Quite a contrast to that micro-managing control freak, Polanski.
Cassavetes’ best buddies and partners in crime were Ben Gazzara and Peter Falk. Just watch these guys give the Three Stooges a run for their money on The Dick Cavett Show! Notice Dick’s discomfort as Cassavetes, Falk, and Gazzara ostensibly plug their new film, ‘Husbands’. The usually cool, calm, and collected Cavett, one of the best talk show hosts ever, was obviously way over his head with these jokers!
Coming up: the third and final piece of this six degrees of separation puzzle. One of Cassavetes’ favorite actors: a true eccentric, a one in a million maniac of a man whom I simply could not resist including in Sinemania!