The Lady and the Scamp

Jon Burlingame is a regular contributor to Calendar

Dame Julie Andrews and director Garry Marshall would, at first glance, seem to be poles apart: the English-born, Oscar-winning icon of "Mary Poppins" (1964) and "The Sound of Music" (1965) fame, the epitome of charm and grace; and the Bronx-born, wisecracking sitcom producer who built a new career in the '80s and '90s directing populist movies like "Beaches" (1988) and "Pretty Woman" (1990)

They recently joined forces on Marshall's family film for Disney, "The Princess Diaries," starring Anne Hathaway as a San Francisco teenager who discovers that she's heir to the throne of a tiny, mythical European kingdom. Andrews plays her grandmother, the queen, who finds it necessary to instruct her in the ways of royalty.

Hathaway, 18, gushes about the experience of working with Andrews. "There wasn't one day on the set when she wasn't lovely and nice and funny and down-to-earth," she says. As for Marshall, Hathaway calls him "the ultimate grandfather-director, the funniest, most giving and warm guy in the world."

And while the elegant Andrews, 65, and the raucous Marshall, 66, might seem like the ultimate cinematic odd couple--compared by one Disney executive to "high tea and beer"--they seemed a natural pairing during a recent conversation in Los Angeles. Andrews laughed heartily at Marshall's nonstop barrage of jokes and lighthearted reminiscences of their weeks together on the film, which opens Aug. 3. They chatted like a pair of old friends--and old pros.

Question: What drew each of you to this story--and to work with each other?

Andrews: That's easy for me to say. I wanted to work with Mr. Marshall.

Marshall: They said, "We think you should do this picture. It's Disney, but you'll make it better. And we'd like to get some stars. We love Julie Andrews, go get her." And I said, "Well, I don't know her, but we'll try."

Andrews: He asked me to meet him. And we went and chatted.

Marshall: We should tell him the spooky part.

Andrews: It's actually six degrees of separation.

Marshall: When she did "Mary Poppins" in this town, she lived in a house that the studio owned while she was doing the film. I now live in that house--since 1974.

Andrews: He took me over there the other day. I walked around and remembered it and reminisced. And we filmed on the same sound stage as we shot "Mary Poppins." I mean, a sound stage looks the same when it's empty and different when it's full. But there's a plaque on the door that says that "Mary Poppins" was filmed on this stage. And that took me back a little.

Q: Fairy-tale themes run through both of your work: Julie, doing "Cinderella" for television [1957] and of course "My Fair Lady" [1956] on Broadway, and Garry, movies like "Pretty Woman." Why do you keep coming back to fairy tales?

Marshall: Well, I don't think you can do a straight-out fairy tale any more. I just thought that this [was a] sweet story--the dorky girl becomes the princess. I've done things along those lines, and I figured I'd do it a new way. To be very honest, the two main factors were, one, that Julie Andrews was going to do it, and two, that my grandchildren are 5 and 6, and I really wanted to make a movie that they could go see. This G [rating issue] came up, and Disney promised me, "You do whatever you want, we don't want a regular, light little fluffy [movie]. Do your craziness."

Andrews: Yeah, and we did. We had a ball.

Q: [To Marshall] When was the first time you saw Andrews?

Marshall: In the '50s, when I was going off to Korea, I was in New York for a while. I went 11 times to see "My Fair Lady" because they let you in free in your Army suit. I never heard the overture, because they don't let you in right away. [Andrews laughs.] They let you stand in the back. And I stood in the back. I was fascinated by her.

Andrews: Was I on every time?

Marshall: Yes. You were there every time.

Andrews: Wow.

Marshall: And I said, "She's very good, whoever this girl is." I loved the show and the charm of it all, and I went off to Korea for two years, but look, here we are.

Andrews: That many years later.

Q: [To Andrews] In "My Fair Lady," you played Eliza Doolittle, to Rex Harrison's Henry Higgins. Here, you're more like Henry Higgins to Anne Hathaway's Eliza Doolittle.

Andrews: Exactly. And I think that Hector [Elizondo, who plays the queen's security chief] is Colonel Pickering.

Q: Is this one of the aspects of the role that interested you?

Andrews: That I was Professor Higgins? No. It didn't occur to me until later. The attraction was obviously, I admired Garry's work and love what he does. I had heard so many lovely things about him, because everybody talks, as you know.

Marshall: They talk. And they all imitate me.

Andrews: It's hilarious. [She starts to imitate Marshall's Bronx accent.] I can't do the words, but I got the emphasis just right. Anyway, that and the role and wearing all those glamorous costumes.

Marshall: Great outfits....

Andrews: Oh, Armani and Valentino and a million dollars' worth of tiara. Pretending to be royal, it was fun. And I really mean that.

Q: Do the clothes and the jewels really help?

Andrews: [Laughing] They don't hurt at all! Believe me. I discovered how much jewels helped when I did a movie called "Star!" [1968] Gertrude Lawrence--it was based on her life story--was famous for wearing the real thing. The day she was declared bankrupt, she went out and ordered a Rolls-Royce, I'm told. I think I wore everything that Cartier's owned, and had a guard following me all the time in that film, and also in "Princess Diaries." But it wasn't until I did that that I realized there's a huge difference between the fake stuff and the real stuff and, my God, it makes you shine and glow.

Marshall: The guy who guards Julie has a gun. It's hard to do comedy when there's a guy with a gun around. Always the insecure director: "Did the guard laugh?" Some poor soul with a gun, suddenly we're playing the whole show to this man. [Laughter.]

Q: What about working with all the kids in the movie?

Marshall: She [Andrews] was very brave with all these kids.

Andrews: No, I wasn't brave. They were wise and adorable and so much different than what I had expected. I honestly thought, oh, kids and teenagers and God knows what. Well, imagine how surprised I was. They didn't need any help from me [or] any advice. They were older than their years, terrifically disciplined and professional and talented. And Annie is a dean's list, first-year student at Vassar. Quite a special young lady.

Marshall: You remember that famous joke, "a Martian wouldn't say that?" [During the shoot] somebody said, "Julie said a queen wouldn't do that." And we all looked at each other and said, "She would know!" So she became the technical advisor. [Laughter.]

Andrews: I put my 10 cents in more times than I should have, and Garry was infinitely patient with me.

Marshall: She did me the supreme favor. We did one scene, and she says a queen isn't going to schlump around like this. A queen doesn't do schlumping. I said, "Just one time, Julie, you're explaining it to the child, you want the kid to understand." ...

Andrews: I was so happy that you asked me to do it, really.... The other thing you have to know about Garry Marshall is that you'd better learn your lines, but then you'd better be prepared to throw every one of them out of the window the minute you walk on the set. Because he tweaks. And it's the best because, from my point of view, it's wonderful to be given that kind of spontaneity and be kept on your toes and not get too rigid.

Marshall: The highlight, because I'm a sentimental guy, was when [executive producer] Whitney Houston came down [to the set], and Julie Andrews and Whitney Houston sang "Happy Birthday" to me. That's not something that happens to Oliver Stone.

Andrews: But you know, you gave me such wonderful bits of physical comedy, which I was thrilled with. And wonderful lines. [She quotes a line from the film.] I mean, "Goodbye, trolley people."

Q: That seems to be everyone's favorite bit of dialogue, after you rescue your granddaughter from a mishap involving her car and a San Francisco trolley car.

Andrews: It just may become a legendary line.

Marshall: And it wasn't in the movie. We put it in later. She did a voice-over. She kills me with that. Certain lines she does, nobody else can do.

Andrews: And the other one I loved from Garry was, "Do you want to slide in first?" [It's said by Hathaway as they are about to climb into the back seat of a limousine.] "No, I never slide."

Marshall: That's Julie Andrews. "I never slide."

Q: This is very much an old-fashioned Disney movie, a Cinderella story with squeaky-clean dialogue and a happy ending. Do you have any concern about how this will play with 21st century kids?

Marshall: It plays from 5 to 15. We kill 'em. Because they're not so cynical, and [there are] enough edges in it....

Andrews: ... I think there are more little girls out there that really think that they are princesses and would love to identify.

Marshall: It's not something that's out of their range. My challenge was to see if we could make a G funny. We know what's out there, and they're making a lot of them for the boys, you know. The boys have got the explosions. A father and a daughter can come to this...

Andrews: ... and grand-mothers ...

Marshall: ... so the girls can get a laugh. Many of the girls do not like toilet-flushing humor.

Andrews: Think about that. How many movies are there without toilet-flushing humor?

Marshall: Hey, I do the best toilet-flushing jokes! But with this one, the parents are so glad. They come up to Julie and me and say, "Oh, thank goodness." Because most parents, when they take their kids to the movies, spend half the movie using their hands to cover the kids' ears--"Don't listen to this, Harriet!" There's none of that in "Princess Diaries."

Q: Do you think that little girls still think of themselves as princesses?

Andrews: You bet they do. My granddaughters do. I see it all around me.

Marshall: Disney has this thing at the El Capitan. It's an odd premiere; we're premiering it in the afternoon because we want kids to come to the premiere. And after the premiere, there's a tea! A princess tea!

Andrews: Actually, it's primarily for me, because I'm the tea person.

Marshall: Every day after that, they're going to have a tea after the movie. Julie's not hanging out; she has a life. [Laughter.] It's just for a few weeks, and it's a minor thing. But here's what's interesting. It's now [mid-June] ... they've already sold 20,000 tickets to the tea.

Andrews: Because we're selling scones as well! And clotted cream! That's what it is!

Marshall: Clotted cream'll get 'em every time! Gimme a clotted cream! [Shouting into the next room.] Rebecca! Clotted cream!

Q: Both of you were typecast for many years: Garry, as a writer and producer of TV sitcoms; Julie, as the wholesome goody-two-shoes actress and singer. But you've both demonstrated much wider range with dramatic fare in recent years. Have you finally beaten the old rap?

Andrews: "S.O.B." [husband Blake Edwards' 1981 Hollywood satire, in which she bared her breasts] helped a great deal. [Laughter.]

Marshall: My daughter, who's a journalist, said, "You're doing good, Dad. First you were Garry ('Happy Days') Marshall, then you became Garry ( 'Pretty Woman') Marshall. Now they say your name without anything in parentheses." [More laughter.]

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