Penny Marshall advises budding directors: Drop the ambition

Thu Sep 20, 2012 6:42pm EDT
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By Andrea Burzynski

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pioneering film director and producer Penny Marshall has some advice for future filmmakers: Take some chances and don't be a slave to Hollywood ambition.

The 69-year-old Marshall who rose to fame as a comedic actress in the sitcom "Laverne and Shirley," and ultimately broke barriers for female directors in a male-dominated field with a string of hit Hollywood films, chronicles her colorful life in a new memoir, "My Mother Was Nuts" that hit U.S. stores this week.

The book is filled Marshall's anecdotes about her childhood in the Bronx with her dance instructor mother, her shotgun marriage in 1961, drug-fueled times with a circle of famous names, her bout with cancer and an acting and directing career spanning 44 years.

She said her lack of fear of being thrown out of Hollywood helped her succeed as the first female director to make a film that grossed over $100 million with 1988's family comedy "Big" starring Tom Hanks.

"I'll try anything. What are they gonna do, kick me out of show business?" she told Reuters in an interview. "I didn't have that problem because I wasn't ambitious enough."

Another key success ingredient? Don't be afraid to ask for help.

"I talked to my crew and said, ‘Just tell me the truth.' I turned to the crews and asked them for their help," she said.

The gambit worked: "Big" was both a box office and critical success and her second film, "Awakenings," picked up an Oscar nomination for best film, while her third, the baseball comedy drama "A League of Their Own," became a Marshall fan favorite.   Continued...

Legendary comedienne and director Penny Marshall (L) is shown in a family photograph with friend, actress and writer Carrie Fisher in this undated handout photograph provided to Reuters September 20, 2012. REUTERS/Courtesy Marshall Family Collection/Handout