We saw “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” last night at the Dryden Theatre. The Dryden’s director said the print we were watching belonged to Martin Scorcese. They are in the middle of their John Cassavetes festival and after the movie they had a question and answer session with the the film’s lead, Ben Gazzara, and his co-star, Seymour Cassel. They played Cosmo, a strip club owner and Mort Weil, a gangster, respectively. In person they were not all that different than their on screen parts. But they were much funnier. Producer/cinematographer, Al Ruban was there too. He described a small crew where everyone wore a few hats. They were good friends with Cassavetes and they had an evening’s worth of fascinating stories.
They worked hard and had a blast. Ben said “John was the least arogant, self serving guy he had ever met. He was an artist. He made films for himself, not for anyone else and he would never be here trying to explain his films”. And according to Ruban he was as good a businessman as he was an artist. Cassavettes once had Ruban build a huge set with a long bar and a trapeze set up above. All to shoot a scene while studio execs were being wooed to finance the film. They bought the film and the scene was cut.
Cassavetes shot a lot of film, changing the script as the actors developed their roles. After sitting through the first screening of “Chinese Bookie”, Ben told John, “The movie is too long”. John said, “What. You got something better to do?”
Tonight we are headed back there to see “Husbands”.