Garry Marshall finds a new 'Princess'
By Jamie Allen
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Even for a guy like Garry Marshall, the legendary television and film writer-producer-director, it's a risky proposition.
Here he is, daring to introduce into this world of "American Pie" and "Scary Movie" sequels -- teen movies involving sex, gross humor, and more sex -- his latest work, "The Princess Diaries." It's a story about a nice high school girl who must accept her destiny when she finds out she's an honest-to-goodness princess.
"This will be interesting to see if there's a place for a girl's coming-of-age story," Marshall admitted during a recent visit to Atlanta to promote the film. "These movies are always about losing your virginity! But we're taking a new approach."
'She's a find'
The main focus of that new approach is newcomer Anne Hathaway, the 19-year-old actress whose previous work includes the Fox drama series "Get Real."
Hathaway plays shy San Francisco high-schooler Mia Thermopolis. When Mia's estranged grandmother (Julie Andrews) shows up and reveals that Mia is the heir apparent to the crown in Genovia, a small European principality, Mia's journey to womanhood (in the innocent sense) is on.
Marshall says casting Hathaway in the lead role, opposite film legend Andrews, was an easy choice. She carries all the unique qualities of the main character, Marshall says.
"Anne Hathaway is a klutz," laughed Marshall. "In the audition she fell, in the middle of (one scene in) the movie she fell. It wasn't even rehearsed. And it looked like it hurt.
"I think she's a find," said Marshall. "She's got a shot. She's pretty, but she's not a sexpot. She can play a regular person in a film. And she's also very bright."
Marshall, 66, has worked this Pygmalion theme into films before. Perhaps his biggest success on the silver screen is "Pretty Woman" (1990), the Julia Roberts vehicle that took her from good-hearted hooker to lovely lady.
"I do like the themes of people overcoming their own insecurities," he said. "I'm trying to say it doesn't matter what your hair or make-up looks like. You've got to make a decision on your life. Don't worry about what someone else says. You've got to make an internal decision."
Marshall also wanted to offer movie audiences with a choice. He has grandchildren now, and he says there's a shortage of films that feature G-rated content.
"You go to a theater now and you literally see parents watching the movie and they suddenly cover their kid's ears," Marshall said. "I figured I'd make one movie where they didn't have to do this."
Speaking of the current state of the entertainment industry, Marshall also keeps tabs on his former stomping grounds in television. He was the creative talent behind TV sitcoms such as "The Odd Couple" (1970-1975), "Happy Days" (1974-1984), "Laverne and Shirley" (1976-1983), and "Mork and Mindy" (1978-1982).
Now out of the sitcom business, he recognizes the reality television boom as a strange fad.
"We specialize in putting people on the TV who don't belong there, have no talent. But they have a willingness to be made fun of," he said. "It's a pretty good cycle. So now you've got to get more outrageous -- eating cockroaches, can you top this?
"I think that cycle will be over soon," he said.
Marshall, meantime, will stick with feature films. He's still considering his next project. With his experience, he can afford to be picky.
"When I'm making a movie I wear a hat that says 'Filmmaking is not a democracy,' " he said. "I could never wear that in TV. There are too many people telling you what to do."
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