Penny Marshall On Her New Memoir ‘My Mother Was Nuts,’ And Directing Brother Garry In ‘A League Of Their Own’Posted: September 21, 2012
For those who want a fast read and a great laugh, do your self a favor and pickup Penny Marshall’s latest memoir, My Mother Was Nuts. The iconic filmmaker and actress (who’s famous for name dropping her close A-list friends) reveals all and doesn’t mind looking a little nuts herself while doing it. She may have started out in dancing classes as a child to please her mother, but Penny shows (even though she probably wouldn’t admit it!) that her carefree lifestyle and ambition is how she ended up becoming the first female director in history to make $100 million at the box office for her work in Big and A League of Their Own. As her motto goes, “Try hard, help your friends, don’t get too crazy, have fun.”
In the book, Penny pens just about everything. “I hope they enjoy it,” she says about readers during her New York press rounds. “I hope they get a laugh, they feel something and that you can identify with [it].” Some of the most memorable stories include her Bronx upbringings, infamous birthday parties with best friend Carrie Fisher that included Hollywood’s elite, that time she was robbed twice and for the most part stayed calm, her friendship with John Belushi, how Robert De Niro almost snagged the Big lead and her past marriage to Rob Reiner. “No, I didn’t talk to them before,” she said on not telling Garry, her daughter Tracy or Rob about writing the book initially. “I talked to Rob afterwards.” Saying, “‘You better warn your wife. There are two pictures of us in there. And do you remember who took the wedding photos?'”
In our discussion, Penny further went into detail about working with her brother Garry Marshall, if she would have ever acted in the best baseball film ever made (my opinion, not hers) and takes a look back on being a part of the Paramount lot during a time when some of the greatest hits including Laverne & Shirley, Happy Days, Mork & Mindy, Taxi and Bosom Buddies were being taped in the 1970s.
I love your relationship with your brother and how he said he’d help you get in the business, but afterward it’s up to you. But what’s the dynamic like directing him, especially in A League of Their Own?
PENNY MARSHALL: Easy! I wanted Christopher Walken and we couldn’t afford him! [Laughs] “Gare, can you come in?” And so he came in and he did it! He’s good! He’s funny!
He knew Tom [Hanks]. Look. That was the first movie I ever did on location: Chicago and Evansville, Indiana. And so I brought as many family members as possible: my daughter, my niece—three nieces and my brother. And he’s easy. Me and Gare don’t talk in full sentences…so it’s easy.
If you were to have acted in the film, would you have liked to play Dottie or Kit?
No, I don’t like to be in some—I have no objectivity on myself. So I don’t have the ego to have to be in front of the camera. And luckily in order to direct I didn’t have to be in it. Like some people have to be in it in order to get the opportunity to direct. I didn’t even ask to direct, but I don’t need—I don’t have the—I’ll cut myself out period. That’s it. I don’t like looking at myself.
You mention that you’re always one of the guys. What are some funny memories you had with actors like Robin Williams and Tom Hanks on the Paramount set?
They had all series on the lot. That’s why we were there. It wasn’t hanging out to hang out. I had a series there. My brother had created three series. Tom was in Bosom Buddies. Taxi was on the lot, which was with my brother. And we would meet in the commissary on whatever day. And I appeared on almost every show because our ratings were higher. [Laughs] “So okay, I’ll run over here and do Taxi. I’ll do a Bosom Buddy.” And a lot of the—because back then, if you did commercials they didn’t let you on television. If you did television you couldn’t do movies. Now, everyone’s doing everything! All of the major stars are doing commercials, which there’s nothing wrong with that, but you weren’t allowed to then. And so it’s very different.
There were only three major channels that they did special shows for, and most of those people went into directing. From Danny [Akroyd] to Rob [Williams], to even Henry Wrinkler. Ron Howard. You know, most of those people went into directing. I know because three multi-camera, which is a three-camera, we didn’t have video things staring at us. We did film. And so we all got used to creating a little bit, and bahaviorizing a bit.