LULA: Hi Zoe, thanks so much for taking the time for the interview… Are you living in Paris now?
Zoe Cassavetes: Yes I’m living in Paris and have lived here for about three years. I have a French husband, which is why I moved here, and because, like you, I’m freelance – I’m a writer and director, I could try something new and leave New York and still work.
LULA: How is your French?
Zoe Cassavetes: (Laughs) Well I have good days and bad days… And then there are rebellious days…
LULA: Rebellious? Where you refuse to speak French?
Zoe Cassavetes: Well my brain refuses, it just rebels and I have no choice but to go with it.
LULA: What do you love most about Paris?
Zoe Cassavetes: I love so many things; The Eiffel Tower, the people – they’re so open and interesting, even confrontational at times. At first I was a little shocked at how confrontational people could be, but then I appreciated it, like ‘okay, let’s have a real conversation.’ That doesn’t happen as often in the States.
LULA: Your film, ‘Broken English’ is really all about that – real conversations and real emotions. I loved how Parker Posey described the film as a ‘Romantic comedy, but not cute” Such an apt description. It was beautiful to see a character so sweet and neurotic and real…
Zoe Cassavetes: Well aren’t we all like that? I really think we are – I just think people often don’t want to talk about real things. I wanted to create a character with the full gamut of emotion – I’m incredibly emotional, so thank god I’m an artist and can allow myself to express how I feel through my work.
LULA: Is it true you were inspired to write the film based on personal experiences?
Zoe Cassavetes: Yes it was loosely based on what I was feeling at the time, and when writing, I can’t help but put myself into the character, and wonder how I would feel when certain events happen. Parker Posey was so in tune with what I wanted in ‘Broken Flowers’. I hadn’t met her before, but straight away she totally got it – she said, ‘thank you for creating a character with a full range of emotions.’ ‘Broken Flowers’ is really all about the fact that everyone wants to be in love. There is this idea of ‘perfect’ love, but it’s not reality, nothing in life is like what it looks like on paper. You don’t know what your relationship is going to be like with another person, you can’t force these things or try to make them ‘perfect’. And living in a city like New York, it’s easy to go through your 20s and early 30s not really thinking about what you need to be happy later on – it’s so easy to be single there… And then suddenly you’re in your mid to late 30s and thinking ‘am I ever going to get married and have a kid?’ It’s a lot of pressure…
LULA: You have since gotten married – how have your feelings towards being single and worrying about not meeting that right person changed since the right person came along for you?
Zoe Cassavetes: Now I really feel like, these women worrying about men are just crazy! I think, ‘God, just enjoy yourself and stop worrying about being single, have fun and hang out with your friends’. I think about how many hours and days I spent worrying about not meeting someone special – now I really think you have to relax about it.
LULA: Do you love being married?
Zoe Cassavetes: Yes I do – it’s wonderful and it’s also complicated. My husband is a musician, so he’s an artist too and we understand each other. Sometimes I just want to run away and escape from everything – I never want to run away from him though, he’s really my best friend. He did the music for ‘Broken English’ for me, we really work well together – I love his music.
LULA: How did you meet one another?
Zoe Cassavetes: We met in New York on a job actually… I had so sworn off men at that point too, but we were so drawn to each other. We flew back and forth between New york and Paris for four years before we got married – that’s dedication!
LULA: So like Nora in ‘Broken English’ you got together with a Frenchman…
Zoe Cassavetes: It’s actually bizarre, I had written the script before I met my husband…
LULA: Wow, that script was like a self-fulfilling prophecy!
Zoe Cassavetes: Completely!
LULA: There are a lot of different types of love explored in Broken Flowers - love between friends, family, men and women… What are your feelings about all these kinds of relationships and how they’ve shaped you as a person and why did you want to explore these in your film?
Zoe Cassavetes: I’m so obsessed with love and relationships and how they change you. You’re friends are your family when you live in New yorkk, and of course your actual family is always so significant in your life. I love love on all different levels. It’s the most interesting thing in life to me – love and relationships. I am always fascinated with the way in which people are drawn to each other and why.
LULA: You seem like a girl’s girl…
Zoe Cassavetes: Yes, I’m a real believer in loving your girls, and understanding each other. For me my female friends are so unbelievably important – I couldn't imagine living without them.
LULA: You have a close friendship with Sofia Coppola – do you think you’ll partner on a film one day?
Zoe Cassavetes: She’s so talented, she doesn't need any of my help! We have out own stories to tell I think. We read each others scripts and and give advice – and that is really special to me, because being an artist these days is hard. People can be so guarded – there isn’t a community like there used to be in the 70s where everyone shares their ideas. Films are just shit these days… There’s no ‘fuck you’ left anymore – my dad was the king of ‘fuck you’. When my dad was making films, people were helping each other to create something more than shitty movies – they were ready to fight for the cause, to say ‘fuck you’ to the commercial establishment.
LULA: Are you working on a new film now?
Zoe Cassavetes: I just finished a script – I’m hoping to film it in London soon. It's about someone not living in London and having to discover it – and because I don’t really know London, I’m looking forward to discovering it in the process of making this film. It will be a challenge for me. I’m aiming to shoot in the late spring next year.
LULA: Can you tell us a little about it?
Zoe Cassavetes: I’m superstitious so I can’t tell you about it, sorry! It’s another emotionally-driven script, I wrote it quickly – in just three weeks. Now I want to make a film in French actually, I love French films. I totally respect the French filmmakers, they have such a high level of quality.
LULA: Do you think that being a female in a male dominated profession gives you a different perspective and way of working?
Zoe Cassavetes: I think it does – it is definitely a male-dominated industry. Women are sensitive, and men can be too of course, but I feel that as a woman I want to create films about women. It’s not like I’m wearing a ball gown and crying a 1000 tears – I don’t think women have to be caricatures, but I want to be honest and sensitive in anything I create. LULA: What do you love most about directing and writing - and do still act as well?
Zoe Cassavetes: I love actors – I cannot act at all, so I totally respect them and what they do. It’s a joke to say that I was an actress – I tried a few times, I took acting classes but I hated hearing my own voice and seeing myself on screen. I love everything about making films, except finding the money to do them! Directing is really a full-time job. People think you shoot a movie and then you’re done – but that’s just a small part of it, you have to edit and do all kinds of post-production. I love spending time with my actors after the shooting’s wrapped – in the edit suite I mean. The shoot might be finished, but I;m still spending day after day looking at all the actors, putting the puzzle together. Promoting is exhausting but can be fun – I try to let my art speak for itself. Personally, I’m so much more interested in seeing films with actors I don't know everything about – like how many babies they adopted this week – it kind of takes the fantasy out of the film.
LULA: Who are your favourite directors, favourite films and filmstars?
Zoe Cassavetes: I have such a love of movies and great directors – I love Sofia’s stuff, I love Darren Aronofsky’s films like The Wrestler and Requiem for a Dream. The French writer and director Christophe Honoré is amazing – it's great to live here in Paris because you get exposed to all these new directors. I love filmmakers who have a voice… I love Woody Allen, oh and [Michelangelo] Antonioni – he is my number one. Such beauty and depth to his films. Kathryn Bigelow is great too. I’ve always loved Alfred Hitchcock and Film Noir, I was obsessed with Buddy Davis as a kid.
LULA: You come from such an incredible, creative family. What did you learn from your father and mother, brother and sister?
Zoe Cassavetes: My dad was all about finding ‘the honest moment’ in his films. The thing I loved so much about him is the way he never changed in interviews or around different people. He was authentic, and had a real passion for film and art. He would pay for all of his films to be made himself – what he achieved was impossible. My mother followed him with open arms and open heart, believed in him and his work. She is amazing. I rely heavily on my sister - we are best friends, she’s the most honest person I’ve ever met. She’ll tell me things straight, she won’t sugar-coat anything. My family is really honest, and I love that. I don’t have any ulterior motives at all when it comes to my work – I don’t want to be famous or anything… Although (laughs) I did have a great experience doing this shoot for LULA! Everyone was sweet, it was fun, we all went to Café Flore afterwards and had a drink. I wore some Rodarte in the shoot – I just love them.
LULA: Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?
Zoe Cassavetes: I grew up in LA, which is funny because my dad seems so not LA at all, but the film-scene was really happening there in the 70s. My dad bought a big house for all of us to live in, and shot most of his films in it. There were always people around when I was growing up, people making films with my parents, collaborating and sharing ideas. People ask me, ‘Did you go to film school?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah – my whole life was film-school!’ I was constantly on set – my home was a set. It was an education and it was super fun. It was such a great era in LA, such a sense of optimism and so safe. LA now is such a one-business town – it is just all Hollywood cheesy movie industry.
LULA: What were you like as a child?
Zoe Cassavetes: I was so shy as a kid… I’m obviously not now, I don't know what happened to me (laughs). I played a lot of sports, I was on the volleyball team. Growing up in LA I was outdoors a lot… I also travelled a lot with my parents. We spent time in New York, where I ended up living for more than 15 years before Paris, and I always had so much fun there with my parents. I loved being able to just walk around the city in New York, exploring different neighbourhoods by foot and not having to be in a car all the time. In LA I would go to the beach a lot with friends, I was such a normal kid. I was always around interesting, arty friends of my parents, a lot of actors, and was able to see that a film is something not just created by the director, but a whole team. I almost couldn't wait to be an adult so I could be part of it all – I like being an adult now, I must say.
LULA: How did you dress as a teen?
Zoe Cassavetes: I thought I was super-hot in the 80s (laughs). My friend gave me an electric shaver and I went straight upstairs and shaved my hair into a mohawk. I went to a catholic private girls school – and I pushed my look as far as I could. I’d wear my school skirt really short with boxer-shorts underneath. I’m so glad there were’nt any paparazzi in those days or video cameras around! I was innocent but totally nuts as a teen… I always wore underwear (laughs)!
LULA: Aside from film, what other passions do you have?
Zoe Cassavetes: I love shooting for fashion magazines and campaigns. I started taking fashion photographs once I moved to Paris… I’ve shot for Stiletto, NY Times, Italian Glamour and others. I try to take every photograph as though it won’t need retouching – I want to get it right in the moment. Working on photo-shoots has given me such a different perspective on film – the two compliment each other.
LULA: How do you feel about clothing personally? What is your style like?
Zoe Cassavetes: I like clothes – I would like to be more dressed up, and be someone who doesn't just wear jeans all the time. Um, do I have my own style? No! (Laughs) I’m not conservative but I like clean, well-fitting clothing… I’m always drawn to the most expensive item on the rack… And then I run off to Zara! Style.com is a great way for me to view fashion – there seems to be a real return to elegance for Fall. But I wonder, when I look at pretty dresses, where would I wear them?
LULA: Dresses are fun to wear anywhere, anytime! Do you have fun getting dressed up for events?
Zoe Cassavetes: I learned my lesson a while ago to not get my make-up done for events, just hair. I don’t like looking like a crazy drag-queen, which is what seems to happen when a make-up artist has a go at my face! I do have fun getting dressed up sometimes, and I love a dress.