Lights! Camera! Grandchildren!

"New Year's Eve" director Garry Marshall brings his grandkids to the set.

By Garry and Lori Marshall

Garry Marshall created, wrote, or produced some of television's most beloved sitcoms, including Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, and The Odd Couple. He has also directed 18 movies, including Pretty Woman, Beaches, The Princess Diaries, Valentine's Day, and his latest release, New Year's Eve. His oldest daughter, Lori, co-wrote his autobiography, Wake Me When It's Funny (Newmarket, 1997). She is also a journalist, a children's playwright, and the mother of twin daughters, age 16 going on 40.

LORI: You just directed your latest movie, New Year’s Eve, and it comes out December 9.

GARRY: Yes. It’s a romantic comedy, my preferred genre. My movie contains no aliens, explosions or guns, just some very special actors like Robert De Niro, Halle Barry, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hilary Swank, Ashton Kutcher, Bon Jovi, and Lea Michele.

LORI: Did you have fun directing this movie?

GARRY: We shot it in New York City during one of the coldest winters ever. However, that being said, it was one of my favorite experiences, too. Going to a movie set every day and getting hugs from Halle Barry is a nice way to make a living.

LORI: In addition to all the stars in the movie, your grandchildren have cameos.

GARRY: Yes. And that’s tricky because it takes a long time to shoot a scene. When working with a five-year-old child you never know if he is going to turn to you in the middle of a scene and say, "Grandpa, I’m done. I wanna go home." I keep ice cream bars on the set in case of meltdowns. In winter I also keep soup.

LORI: I have heard you can get a little snippy with the kids.

GARRY: I wouldn’t call it snippy. I just get short with them sometimes because I’m impatient. I have to stay on schedule.

LORI: That’s snippy.

GARRY: It’s my job. And I love working with my grandkids. Nepotism can be fun. That’s my motto.

LORI: Are your grandchildren good actors?

GARRY: All kids are difficult, because acting is against what they have been taught. Their parents tell them to look adults in the eye, but on the movie set I don’t want them to look me in the eye. So I have to tell them, "Don’t look at Grandpa. Look at Ashton Kutcher." It takes practice.

LORI: Let's explain why you feel compelled to put all of your grandkids in your movies, just like you put all three of your children in your television shows during the 1970s and 1980s.

GARRY: The reason is two-fold. First, when I was growing up in the Bronx, I didn’t know what my dad did for a living.

LORI: You told me he worked in advertising.

GARRY: Yes, but I didn’t know what that meant. As far as I could see, being in advertising meant putting on cuff links and a fancy suit and drinking three martinis at lunch. I didn't know the nuts and bolts of his job. So when you and your sister and brother were little, each year I put you in one of my television shows so you could see me at work. On Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, you saw me penciling up scripts at my desk. You saw me talking to actors who were unhappy about their scenes. You saw me auditioning nervous actors who were dying to break into show business. You witnessed the highs and lows of my job as a television producer.

LORI: I was the envy of my 6th-grade class because I not only knew Henry Winkler personally but also Scott Baio. So thank you.

GARRY: You are welcome. Then when I moved into directing movies, I had a new motivation to put my family into movies. To make a long story short: I lost a lot of money from following bad investment advice. I was feeling depressed and I went to a psychic with a gold fang. I asked her for guidance on how to cheer myself up and get my life back on track. She told me that I should put my entire family in all of my movies. She said if I did that I would become more successful and make my money back.

LORI: A psychic with a gold fang? Very Hollywood. Did following her advice work out for you?

GARRY: I directed Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere next, and it was one of my biggest hits.

LORI: You have found great success in television and movies. Do you care if your grandchildren go into show business when they grow up?

GARRY: Not really. They could be computer people. They could be artists. They could even be musicians. I once was a drummer. I just want them to have a passion for something. I want them to each have a job that makes them want to get out of bed each morning.

LORI: Do your grandchildren think your job is cool?

GARRY: Yes because on the movie set they can have as many ice cream bars as they want. And, to be honest, I think the lady with the fang was pretty cool too.

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