“So they sent [the script] to Columbia, and a couple of days later [my agent] called and said, ‘I have some good news and some bad news. One, they like the picture very much and want to buy it. And they want to have Gena in the picture.’ And I said what’s the bad news. ‘The bad news,’ he said, ‘is they want you to direct it.’ So that’s where we started.” —John Cassavetes, chapter on The Making of Gloria (1979-1980)
It’s a great privilege to read John Cassavetes’ screenplay for ‘Gloria.’ (NOTE: For educational purposes only.) Thanks to DucDeRichelieu and the great folks at Write to Reel.
Cassavetes had no intention of directing ‘Gloria,’ a script he’d knocked out in a couple of weeks to sell to MGM. But with Gena attached and time to work on some rewrites before Columbia eventually took the script instead, the money finally proved too good to turn down. Rowlands was sold on the idea from the outset, keen to take on a tough-talking, leading role that in some ways resonated with her long-held love for Marlene Dietrich.
It was unlike anything Cassavetes had ever undertaken before: a $4m budget; a large, professional crew; a strictly enforced sequential shooting schedule and no final cut. While the production went by smoothly enough, Columbia sat on the film for almost a year, convinced it wouldn’t prove profitable enough to market. They weren’t wrong. Despite winning Gena the best actress award at the Venice Film Festival, the film did middling business. Not that Cassavetes really seemed to care: “It was television fare as a screenplay, but handled by the actors to make to better. It’s an adult fairy tale. And I never pretended it was anything else but fiction. I always thought I understood [it]. And I was bored because I knew the answer to that picture the minute we began. And that’s why I could never be wildly enthusiastic about the picture — because it’s so simple. Whereas ‘Husbands’ is not simple, whereas ‘A Woman Under the Influence is not simple,’ ‘Opening Night’ is not simple. You have to think about those pictures. The next picture we make will be a deep personal statement. I don’t know if anyone will finance it. Fortunately, [now] I have some money…” —Matthew Thrift, John + Gena: dynamite on screen and off
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