John Nicholas Cassavetes (December 9, 1929 – February 3, 1989) was an American actor, screenwriter and filmmaker. He appeared in many Hollywood films. He is most notable as an influential pioneer of independent film. He used handheld cameras and cinema-vérité style techniques in his films, but they were based on actors and screenplays and were fiction.
Cassavetes was born in New York City, the son of Katherine Cassavetes (who was to feature in some of his films) and Nicholas John Cassavetes, Greek immigrants to the U.S. His early years were spent with his family in Greece; when he returned, at the age of seven, he spoke no English. He grew up in Long Island, New York. He attended Port Washington High School from 1945-1947, participating in Port Weekly (the school paper), Red Domino (interclass Play), Football, and the Port Light (year book). Next to his photo on page 55 of his 1947 year book is written "'Cassy' is always ready with a wisecrack, but he does have a serious side. A 'sensational' personality. Drives his 'heap' all over." Cassavetes also attended high school at Blair Academy in New Jersey before moving to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. On graduation in 1950, he continued acting in the theater, took small parts in films, and began working on television in anthology series such as Alcoa Theatre.
During this time, he met and married actress Gena Rowlands. By 1956, Cassavetes had begun teaching method acting in workshops in New York City. An improvisation exercise in one workshop inspired the idea for his writing and directorial debut, Shadows (1959; first version 1957). Cassavetes raised the funds for production from friends and family, as well as listeners to Jean Shepherd's late-night radio talk show Night People. His stated purpose was to make a film about little people, different from Hollywood studio productions.