Gena Rowlands

  1. Jean Seberg, Saint Joan, 1957. Although a trifle old at 27 for the 19-year-old Maid of Orleans, the tyrannical producer-director Otto Preminger was intrigued by Mrs John Cassavetes, then a mainly TV actress (Kraft Television Theatre, Armstrong Circle Theatre, Goodyear Television Playhouse). He also considered such unlikely Joans as Ursula Andress, Julie Andrews, Anne Bancroft, Claire Bloom, Carol Burnett, Joan Collins, Angie Dickinson, Shirley MacLaine, Mary Tyler Moore, Kim Novak (from Otto’s Man With The Golden Arm, 1955), Debbie Reynolds, Maggie Smith, Liz Taylor and… Mamie Van Doren!
  2. Stella Stevens, Too Late Blues, 1961.    Try as he might, actor-turned-director John Cassavetes could not persuade the Paramount suits to agree to his wife playing Jess Polanski. She was still a relatively unknown TV actress at the time. This was Stella’s finest hour. She Snever bettere this heartbreakingly vulnerable role – matrix for Gina’s future heroines when Cassavetes no longer had to answer to the Front Office: A Woman Under the Influence, 1974, and Opening Night, 1977.

  3. Elaine Stritch, September, 1986.
    In his 2020 memoir,  Apropos of Nothing, Woody Allen  called the film “a drama that asks the question: Can a group of tortured souls come to terms with their sad lives when directed by a guy who should still be writing mother-in-law jokes for Broadway columnists?”   The Bergmanesque chamber piece was more of a chamber pot .A mess from start to finish – twice over. For his second slice of anything-Ingmar-Bergman-can-do-I-sure-can’t-and-wished-I-could, Woody Allen was rewriting at lunch and again after dinner, while dropping actors including his lady Mia Farrow’s mother, Maureen O’Sullivan. Woody called up Gena Rowlands and she didn’t fancy it. Enter: Elaine. Next, to his producers’ horror, Woody threw the film in the garbage and started all over. He would have been wiser to scrap it and move on. Only Farrow (pregnant by the end of shooting) and Dianne Wiest stayed put; Denholm Elliott, too, but in a different role. Rowlands called him back in the hope they could collaborate on something else – just when he just happend to be writing the more cohesive Another Woman. Welcome aboard!

  4. Miranda Richardson, The Big Brass Ring, 1998.   For his mid-1980s script, Orson Welles considered star couples – the Cassavetes or the Newmans – as the White House hopefuls blackmailed over a gay sex scandal.
  5. Julia Blake, Last Dance, Australia, 2011.    Down-under union rules forced the 81-year-old Oscar-winner out of her role of a Holocaust survivor taken hostage in her apartment by a radical Palestinian. Terence Hammond and director David Pulbrook wrote their scenario for Gena and she had rehearsed for months… to no avail. (While British Richard E Grant had no problem starring in The Kath and Kim Fillum).




 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  5