Long-reigning king of the Hollywood romantic comedy, Garry Marshall casts a pretty woman or two in yet another of his ensemble efforts. He talks to Michele Manelis about why his movies are so nice.

There's no question that director Garry Marshall, 81, who brought us Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, The Princess Diaries franchise, Valentine's Day, New Year's Eve and now Mother's Day, loves to celebrate women.

"Women are more interesting than men," he says. "There's nothing wrong with men but what goes on in a woman's mind is amazing."

In return, Marshall's women are undeniably loyal to him when he comes calling.

Most notably, Julia Roberts, a then-unknown actress he cast in the lead role in Pretty Woman, and again in Runaway Bride, returns as part of his ensemble. Kate Hudson, with whom he worked in Raising Helen also returns the favour, but it's Jennifer Aniston, with whom he has never collaborated, who leads this all-star cast.


"Garry Marshall is the reason most of us said yes to this movie without even reading a script," says Aniston.

"Since I was a kid, watching Happy Days, The Odd Couple, Laverne and Shirley and all of his incredible movies, he really does have a beautiful touch on the different scenarios of what different family units are today."

For all his good intentions, no stereotype is spared in Marshall's depiction of the diverse family unit - from the gay couple, the inter-racial family, the divorced couple who grapple with co-custody arrangements and new spouses, to young mothers, estranged mothers, and the older style matriarch whose homophobic, racist views are out of sync with today's world.

Aniston, who is constantly plagued by rumours in her own life about the state of her marriage and supposed pregnancies, plays a newly divorced woman and single mother of two sons.

Marshall: "Jennifer had the hardest role to play because she had to show such different emotions."

Says Aniston: "I've always had an appreciation for my mum. She was a single mum as a lot of our parents are from that generation. I've always had a great appreciation for women who are working mums, single mums, and that's not lost on me," she says.

"I've played mothers for years but this movie doesn't change how I feel about motherhood."

Marshall views family life and relationships through a rose-tinted lens and, along those lines, Mother's Day is no different from his previous films. His relentlessly upbeat view remains.

"So many people want to do real life movies and tell the truth but real life is not always so perfect. I started in TV with Happy Days. That wasn't about a real family, it was about what a family should be and could be, if possible," he explains. "I like hope."

As evidenced in Pretty Woman, the esteemed director has an idealised view of even the darkest of subjects.

"When I was doing Pretty Woman, a couple of critics said 'This is terrible. It's about drugs and prostitution!' I said to the audience, 'Did you miss something in this film? Did you want more?' And they answered, 'No we know that part. We wanted to see something else.' Sometimes the audience wants to see how it could be."

Marshall's new film has three of Hollywood's favourite rom-com movie stars.

"Jennifer is the friend everyone wants to have. She's not threatening to women and people want to get to know her. Kate is lovable, always was. She's as likeable off-screen as she is on.

And Julia," he sighs. "There's nothing more magical than that smile. And some men are afraid of her, but I'm not afraid. I'm Italian, I'm a Scorpio, I have a sister, and daughters."

Can he foresee a time in which there will no longer be an audience for this type of escapism and happily-ever-after sentiments?

"Well, I hope romantic comedies stay around. When I did Pretty Woman they said 'It'll never work in Europe because people don't like romantic comedies overseas.' Well, it happened to do very well internationally and one of my happiest moments was knowing that it played in India every day for a year."

Marshall is planning a Broadway musical of Pretty Woman - Bryan Adams, who has a song on the soundtrack to Mother's Day, is writing the music. though presumably the Roy Orbison song of the title will figure in the production.

Doing a stage musical is a rare foray outside Marshall's favourite genre.

"It's getting harder and harder to make romantic comedies because studios want franchise pictures with cartoon characters. I grew up watching Batman and Superman but I don't know how to blow people up, and I don't do greenscreen.

"I like to see people in a room."



Garry Marshall veteran director


Mother's Day starring Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts and Kate Hudson


At cinemas from Thursday