Last month at an after-party for Paris, je t'aime, a frenzied group of New York socialites, fashion editors, and young starlets was busy angling for the best possible photo op when Gena Rowlands, dressed to the nines in Yves Saint Laurent, walked in. The sea of cameramen and their eager subjects instantly parted, allowing the 76-year-old star to pass through before they resumed their shenanigans. Such respect is a rare commodity on the party scene, but then, Rowlands is a Hollywood legend.
The Wisconsin-born blond-haired, blue-eyed actress studied theater in Washington, D.C., and New York before nabbing the role of Edward G. Robinson's co-star in the Broadway play Middle of the Night at 25. Within two years, she headed for Hollywood with her husband, the director and "father of independent film" John Cassavetes. Their relationship produced ten movies, two Oscar nominations for her (for A Woman Under the Influence and Gloria), and a trio for him, as well as three children. This summer, Rowlands stars in Broken English, her daughter Zoe Cassavetes' first feature-length film and a Sundance Grand Jury Prize contender. It's the first time mother and daughter have worked together. "I'm having a great time," said the actress at that New York dinner, and we believe her.