Rowlands celebrates 6 decades in film with honorary Oscar

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Posted: Nov 11, 2015 8:55 AM
Rowlands celebrates 6 decades in film with honorary Oscar

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Gena Rowlands has been an actress for more than 60 years, and on Saturday, she'll accept her first Academy Award.

The 85-year-old entertainer, who was twice nominated for the best actress Oscar, will receive an honorary statuette at the film academy's seventh annual Governors Awards.

Rowlands made 10 films with her late husband, director John Cassavetes, including the two for which she earned Oscar nods: 1974's "A Woman Under the Influence" and 1980's "Gloria." She found a new generation of fans with her performance in 2004's "The Notebook." Rowlands continues to work, starring with Cheyenne Jackson in last year's "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks."

Rowlands spoke by phone with The Associated Press to answer six questions about her career. Some responses have been edited for brevity.

AP: What was your most challenging film?

Rowlands: I think maybe "A Woman Under the Influence," because the character herself was complicated. She was mentally not the same as most people, and yet she had a very great capacity for love — she loved her husband and children obsessively and closed most everybody else out. It was just complicated going back and forth, because she went into a bad nervous breakdown, and it was just a very interesting woman to study.

AP: Is there a movie you've made that you now find difficult to watch, either because of content or emotional reasons?

Rowlands: Well, you know I only watch my movies that I make once, so I can just see how it hangs together, but after that, I don't watch them again. A lot of people have disappeared from Earth that you've worked with, and they make me sort of sad once in a while, and there's really no necessity for me to watch them. I've made them, and it's on film and that's that.

AP: What changes in Hollywood have been most surprising to you?

Rowlands: Really nothing surprises me in Hollywood. They have new surprises almost every day! I've found that the subject that is popular changes about every 10 years. For example, now it's very technical and they're aiming at very young people, and they have "Ant Man" and Mars and zombies and things, and they seem to do very well.

AP: You've done some of your best work later in your career. Is that just a matter of patience?

Rowlands: I think maybe it's luck. I don't know. The fact that my husband at the time, John Cassavetes, he had a particular sympathetic interest in women and their problems in society, how they were treated and how they solved and overcame what they needed to, so all his movies have some interesting women, and you don't need many.

AP: What is the movie experience you'd most like to forget or do differently?

Rowlands: If I have something I like to forget, then I forget it.

AP: What was your most exciting Hollywood experience?

Rowlands: I think it was when I worked with Bette Davis, who is my all-time favorite actress. She was so wonderful — as much in person as she was on film. She had a great sense of humor and very strong opinions about things, which she was not reluctant to share. She was just a very, very interesting woman.

(Rowlands tells a story about working with Davis on the 1979 TV movie "Strangers: The Story of a Mother and Daughter." After watching the scenes they'd shot the day before, Davis asked her if she thought the color was off — Did her lips look orange?)

Rowlands: I said, "Actually, I didn't really see them. I guess I just wasn't paying such close attention." (Davis) said, "Oh, you weren't? Well, let me tell you something. You better start paying strict attention because you're no spring chicken either!"

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .