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Garry Marshall

  • by Joan Brasher Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 21 May
Garry Marshall

Garry Marshall is an American icon. The producer/director brought us such classic TV sitcoms as The Odd Couple (1970-75), Happy Days (1974-84), and Mork and Mindy (1978-82). And on the big screen, he's brought us the likes of Pretty Woman, Frankie and Johnny, Runaway Bride, and The Princess Diaries (with a sequel coming in August). (Meanwhile, Marshall's kid sister Penny was also making a name for herself, starring in TV's Laverne and Shirley and directing films like Big, A League of Their Own and The Preacher's Wife.) Garry Marshall also directed 1987's Overboard, starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. During the filming of Overboard, Hawn's 8-year-old daughter Kate Hudson (also Russell's stepdaughter) was running around the set, already aspiring to be an actress. Sixteen years later, Kate is Marshall's leading lady in the romantic comedy Raising Helen, opening next week. Christianity Today Movies joined other members of the religious press for this recent conversation with Marshall.

The actors say you're a lot of fun to work with.Garry Marshall: I am a total believer of making the process a good time—make it memorable, have some fun, try to shoot high in your quality and then don't get crazy, see what happens.It's not often you see a movie in which a clergyman is the romantic interest. What's behind that?Marshall: That was one reason I took the picture. I thought it was an interesting spin on the love story. And to be very honest, with some of the religious things going on in the news, I thought there should be a positive statement, you know, that religion has a good place and it has its good people. It was a difficult thing, though, because John Corbett was really against playing a nice fellow. He had done too many movies in a row in which he was a nice guy, and he didn't want to be a nice guy any more. But, slowly, this intrigued him that it was a different kind of love interest. Some of the early takes had 14 religious jokes, but we didn't need them all, so we took some out. I thought it came out well. We played it for some Lutherans, and they thought it was good. We can't compete with Mel Gibson, but we figured we could do our part [laughter]!Did you get any flack at all?Marshall: It was the weirdest flack. There was one moment where they (the preview audience) said that the ministers shouldn't touch the kids. I asked why. They said, "Well, with all that is going on in the world, maybe it ought to be such and such." I said, "I don't think they're going to think about that." That's the only piece of flack that ever occurred.I've been directing a lot of years. In television, they wouldn't let you do a show about a religious person—unless they flew like the Flying Nun. But in the '60s and '70s, they always felt the priest or the minister would not be a good topic for a comedy show, because the audience would perceive that nothing bad could happen to them. But now I think it has changed. It can be done, I think, with humor. In this movie, people were more concerned about how these kids are going to survive. Kate Hudson, with these three kids, meets a religious man who is solid enough that these kids will be alright. It built the case better than if she was running around with a bartender or a band singer or something. There is nothing wrong with a bartender or band singer, but this man would give us solidarity.Why did you want to do this movie?Marshall: Because, in my mind, it is a salute to parents and how hard it is to raise kids these days. I have three children. I have two sisters who have children. It's a hard job. It means giving up some things, but on the other hand they keep saying "you can have it all." You can't really have it "all" so easy. You can do a little of this and little of that. There's a scene we shot for Raising Helen that we had to cut. It was at the end, where the modeling agency set up a childcare center. That is how it works now. If you had a childcare center at your office, you have a prayer of having a life as a career. They have them at Warner's, at Paramount, at Disney. Everybody has a childcare center now. It's not perfect, but it gives you a running shot, and that is what I think is important.How involved are you in the editing process?Marshall: Editing is the only process. The shooting is the pleasant work. The editing makes the movie, so I spend all my life in editing. When you are my age, you've done certain scenes before—the love montage scene, looking for a job scene, can't find an apartment scene—so you keep looking for different ways to do it. When I edit, I'm not from the school of "Hello, I'm a genius, so everybody shut up." I'm from the school of "Let's play it once in front of an audience," and then I'll tell you where it is going. I play a couple of previews before I even show the studio and I can get a feel of what is working and what isn't. That is what editing is really about, where to work it. You work around what you feel works and then you get there.What is the difference in directing Kate Hudson from when you directed films with her mother, Goldie Hawn?Marshall: They are both great in everything. I think Kate's generation is very aware today; they know what's happening. A lot of kids today feel the media doesn't depict them right in movies and TV. They are not all drug addicts and they are not all sex-crazed kids. So Kate is very aware of what kids say and what kids like, 'cause she is a young person herself. Goldie and Kurt, we were doing a different generation. It's all changed since then. In Happy Days we couldn't say anything. Now they have sex and running around, so how much do you show and how much do you not show? Kate is a very decent person who won't do anything she doesn't think is good to show in a film. I do pictures that celebrate human beings overcoming things, and we were from basically the same school on that.What did you think of the Breslin kids, who played two of the children in Raising Helen? And do they remind you of your relationship with your sister Penny?Marshall: I love those Breslin kids. And they have great parents. That was helpful. When I grew up, Penny was much younger than me—and one of the great pests of the world. My other sister, Ronnie, was the good one, but Penny was the troublemaker. So, there was a lot of relating to her in these situations in Raising Helen. And yeah, I drew upon my family. And I have my own kids; my son is the second unit director on my pictures, so he directed a lot of scenes with the kids.Which one of your films has the most important message you want to last?Marshall: I think the best film I ever made was called The Other Sister. It was not a hit, but that is my favorite. Raising Helen comes close, because everybody scored here. Everybody did a good job, so I think this is a very solid piece. At the other end, Exit to Eden almost got me out of the business! So, everything doesn't work out.Photo © Copyright Touchstone Pictures