Gena Rowlands on Pioneering the Indie Film Movement With Late Husband John Cassavetes

Gena Rowlands - H 2015
AP Images/Invision

Gena Rowlands - H 2015

"When we ran out of money, we paid for our own pictures by acting for others or mortgaging our home," recalls the actress, who will be honored at the Governors Awards on Nov. 14 for her lifetime of work in the movie industry.

This story first appeared in the Nov. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Gena Rowlands and her late husband, director John Cassavetes, helped usher in the American indie film movement with such films as 1974's A Woman Under the Influence and 1980's Gloria (both earned her Oscar noms). At the Governors Awards, the 85-year-old actress will receive an honorary Oscar for her lifetime of work in the movies.

What was the indie scene like before you and your husband started making movies?

There wasn't anybody doing it. Everything was done through the studios. But we did it on our own. When we ran out of money, we paid for our own pictures by acting for others or mortgaging our home. It was a struggle, but it was a wonderful struggle.

How did you meet your husband?

I was at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and he was a year ahead of me. He saw my final exam and he came backstage. I still wonder if it wasn't that beautiful red velvet dress I was wearing!

And you went on to make eight movies together …

He loved actors, and he had a particular interest in women. Women in movies, I should say! He was interested in women's problems and where they are in society and what they have to overcome. He offered me some really wonderful parts.

You've officially retired. If Steven Spielberg asked you to act in his next film, what would you say?

I would say, "Well, I'm retired … but I will read the script!"