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Valentine's Day - Garry Marshall interview

Jennifer Garner in Valentine's Day

Interview by Rob Carnevale

GARRY Marshall, the veteran director of rom-coms such as Pretty Woman, talks about making Valentine’s Day, assembling such a starry cast, having Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift become “an item” and why the classic boys meets girl story is always a great way to bring hope into people’s lives…

Q. This is quite a straightforward concept… take a film and centre it around Valentine’s Day. So, why hasn’t it been done before?
Garry Marshall: Because sometimes people don’t like straightforward and simple. They think that with this cast we should have done Anna Karenina or War & Peace. But we wanted to do a nice love story. At this time in history, when some things are messy out there, I would say it’s nice to spend two hours in a nice simple love story with some terrific actors. It leaves you with hope and a good feeling.

Q. How easy was it to get a cast like this together?
Garry Marshall: Well, you start with a script, which was written by Katherine Fugate and other writers, and you don’t cast people… you cast couples. In a love story, often people kiss and, at the very least, they look in each other’s eyes. So, you have to have people who can do that with each other. So, we tried really hard by reading all the trade papers to discover who wasn’t married, or who just broke up… people who maybe liked each other or who would like to meet.

Q. Did you find that you set anyone up on-set?
Garry Marshall: The newest couples were Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner… one’s a vampire guy, the girl writes songs. But they’d never met. And when you have young people, in particular, who’ve never met you start right away with the kissing scene or else they worry about it for days. So, you go right into kissing and they kissed. The girl always likes it because she can say: “The director told me I have to kiss you.” So, she’s off the hook… she has licence. And they kissed… the first three takes were OK, by about the sixth take they started to go together and they were an item!

Q. What’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever done?
Garry Marshall: I think the most romantic thing is we renewed our vows… we’ll be married 47 years in March. But we renewed our vows a few years ago. It wasn’t quite my idea. The kids decided we’d renew our vows. So, they got the wedding dress my wife wore – and it still fit her. She went out with some friends, they had a few drinks, so she showed up a little tipsy at the renewal. She wasn’t sure what was going on. I think it was three years too late – I got on one knee to ask her to marry me, I couldn’t get up. There was a whole thing… I have a new hip. It was a little bit messed up bit very romantic and we did renew our vows. And we use that in the movie.

Q. Do you pay much heed to Valentine’s Day yourself? And would your partner’s throttle you if you forgot? And what are your plans for this Valentine’s Day?
Garry Marshall: Yeah, it’s alright; it’s a nice day. We have another movie they sent me. I’m going to do different holidays, so we’re talking about New Year’s Day. You didn’t know about it but Hector [Elizondo] does… he has a part in it. On Valentine’s Day I’ll be in Rome with my wife. We’ll say: “OK, another Valentine’s Day…” We’ve done a lot of them. We may even go to the movie. She’s seen it 150 times, but she’ll go again. But I do believe that every time you can you should take a moment to say “hey, I love you” because after all that’s said and done those words still have a lot of weight if there’s someone you’re lucky enough to connect with in life.

Q. Why do you love making films about love?
Garry Marshall: Well, it makes people have a smile very often and it makes them feel good inside if we’re successful. Sometimes we blow it altogether and people say: “I don’t believe they’re in love at all, let’s go home and watch something blow up, or blue… Avatar!” I was very sick as a child. Steven Spielberg went around filming his mother in the kitchen; I went around coughing and sneezing and asking for Kleenex from my mother to blow my nose. So, to make people feel good after I felt bad a lot I think is a part of it.

Q. Why do you think people love watching love stories?
Garry Marshall: I think they’re writing now that love stories are not good to do because it gives you expectation. You go to Valentine’s Day and say: “Oh look, they fell in love…” And you expect to as well and then maybe you’re depressed. I don’t feel that way. I think you should always have hope, even if it fails you. You’ve got to have hope.

Q. Are there any great screen moments that you think are great?
Garry Marshall: A Man & A Woman [a 1966 French film], for me, is one of my favourites because the music kept playing. Breakfast At Tiffany’s… Moon River makes a great love story.

Q. Romantic comedies typically follow a set format. How do you feel that the genre has developed since, say, Pretty Woman and is there room for it to be redefined at all?
Garry Marshall: Well, I was talking to someone and I’d say that Chekhov wrote a long time ago that He and She is the engine of all drama. But now I think there’s a he and a he, and a she and a she, and there’s all different types of love stories that are now allowed to be told. I think that’s a good thing. But I think the classic boy meets girl and there has to be a conflict… something has to go wrong. If you have a love affair and nothing went wrong, it probably won’t last in my opinion. But you have to, as we say in Valentine’s Day, take the good part and the bad part of a person to be in love. This is what takes a moment to find out when you’re first dating.

You can be so nice… a lot of girls date guys who live out of town because it’s more low maintenance; they’re not around all the time. There’s parts of love you don’t like… I know a lot of guys break up with their girls just before Christmas and they go up on St Patrick’s Day because then you miss Christmas, Valentine’s Day and you don’t have to worry about all that. But this is what makes love happen… so, I think that most stories are either Cinderella or The Little Engine That Could, so write that down if you’re going to write a screenplay! In Cinderella, what they always forget is the fairy godmother or godfather – Hector [Elizondo] played it in Pretty Woman and George Lopez plays it in Valentine’s Day. So, I think the beginning and end of love stories will always remain the same… it’s what you do in the middle that makes either a great love story or not. We always try the best we can but sometimes we miss. The second thing that makes the love story work these days, because of the worship of celebrity now in all countries, is the casting. So, if you can get two people you would like to see as lovers, then that’s what makes the best love story.

Read our review of Valentine’s Day