Celluloid Heir: Zoe Cassavetes

Photo: Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan

When your father was John Cassavetes, the director of such seventies classics as A Woman Under the Influence, your mother is the woman in question, Gena Rowlands, and your brother, Nick, is the director of The Notebook (and now Alpha Dog), it is brave—and perhaps inevitable—for you to write and direct a movie of your own. Premiering at Sundance, Cassavetes’s first feature, Broken English, follows the love life of a thirtysomething New Yorker, played by indie queen Parker Posey.

Where did the idea for this movie come from?
I started noticing that people were always asking me, “When are you going to get married? Do you have a special boyfriend?” So I thought the movie would be an interesting comment on society’s idea of only being happy if you’re with someone.

So I’m guessing the movie refutes that idea?
Well, it’s about being happy with yourself. But I don’t really believe in neat, packaged endings—unless everyone blows up in the end.

How much pressure is there to live up to your dad’s legend?
I got to grow up in an incredibly artistic family. People are going to say what they want to say. Unfortunately, my father died when I was 18, so he gave me more life advice than “film” advice. He understood things about people that still fascinate me, especially as I get older and the subjects of his films make more sense to me.

Your mother plays Parker Posey’s overbearing mother in the movie. What was it like directing her?
My mother was incredibly helpful and insightful when it came to discussing the script and ideas. She put aside the “daughter” aspect and treated me as the director.

How is your movie different from an episode of Sex and the City?
There’s a lot of pain involved in the story and a lot of self-doubt and loneliness. Sex and the City is fun, but the movie’s more soulful than that.

And how much do you really resemble the Parker Posey character?
As a writer, I wouldn’t know how to not take things out of my life. I love when I’m writing and I’m cringing because I know I’m doing something right.

Celluloid Heir: Zoe Cassavetes