Sicilian American actor Ben Gazzara, famed for his work with John Cassavetes died on Friday of pancreatic cancer, aged 81. Gazzara’s career spanned seven decades and his impact as an actor was felt through generations of American filmmaking. Beginning his career on Broadway in the 1950’s, notably working with Elia Kazan on Tennessee William’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Gazzara went on to study at the Actors Studio before truly making an impression in the films of John Cassavetes. Working alongside Gena Rowlands and Peter Falk, Gazzara featured in three Cassavetes films: Husbands (1970), The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) and Opening Night (1977). In 1979 Gazzara starred as a pimp in Peter Bogdanovich’s Saint Jack; the production won the critics prize at the Venice Film Festival, the first film to win it in seven years at the time. Later in his career Gazzara’s impression on the younger generation of American filmmakers became clear, working with Vincent Gallo, the Coen Brothers, Todd Solondz and Spike Lee in Buffalo ’66 (1998), The Big Lebowski (1998), Happiness (1998) and Summer of Sam (1998).
THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE (DIR. JOHN CASSAVETTES, 1976)
SAINT JACK (DIR. PETER BOGDANOVICH, 1979)
BUFFALO ’66 (DIR. VINCENT GALLO, 1998)
THE BIG LEBOWSKI (DIR. JOEL & ETHAN COEN, 1998)