“Everyone should try to look as good as they can,” says Gena Rowlands, “and then they should forget it. My interests don’t lie in coming beautiful down the stairway.” Nevertheless, the Oscar-nominated star of 31 films—many made with her late husband, filmmaker John Cassavetes—regularly does just that. And audiences and costars don’t forget it. “She’s remarkable,” says Sharon Stone, who worked with Rowlands on last year’s The Mighty. “She has a great, great face, and the best hair I’ve ever seen.” To her frequent costar Seymour Cassel (Minnie and Moskowitz, among others), Rowlands, 63, exudes “the kind of class that goes back to the ’30s and ’40s, like Carole Lombard. She ages beautifully, with such dignity and elegance.”
Not that Rowlands likes it much. “Getting older stinks,” states the Wisconsin-born daughter of Edwin, a banker turned state senator, and Lady, a painter. “I’d rather look as I did when I was 35 to 40. On the other hand, it would be very peculiar for me to still look like that. You have to accept the natural rhythms.” But the 5’5½” mother of three also sets her own tempo by avoiding the sun and walking daily—on a treadmill in front of the TV if the weather’s bad (“I’ll try and catch a rerun of Law & Order). And while she admits she’d “like to be thinner and taller and brunette,” all she really needs to face the world is her Estée Lauder moisturizer, “a real rose.” lipstick and her favorite pair of shades. “Sunglasses are the secret,” Rowlands divulges. “Sunglasses and a little lipstick will take you to the market.” Sometimes, much further.