Adams on Reel Women: $100 million director Penny Marshall meets President Obama, shoots Dennis Rodman, and had “Big” plans for Robert De Niro
Photo: JB Lacroix/WireImage
Thelma Adams: When people talk about how "Big" made $100 million, Penny, you seem to have a stock answer that downplays the achievement.
Penny Marshall: I didn't get the money.
TA: No, but you got clout.
PM: I was happy it did well. Then I got a deal so I could develop "A League of Their Own." I did "Awakenings" because my mother had Alzheimer's. I thought she'd forget that she didn't like me.
TA: Did she?
TA: It's been years since you've helmed a Hollywood movie. The last one was "Riding in Cars With Boys" in 2001. You've directed some series TV like "The United States of Tara" and "According to Jim," and the TV movie "Women Without Men," but why no features?
PM: The studio movies they do today I don't want to do: horror, car crashes, and vampires. Ech! Tell me a story. "League," "Awakenings," and "Riding in Cars with Boys" -- they're based on true stories.
TA: Then why not go independent, Penny?
PM: I don't want to work for nothing. And, also, life happened since 2001. After 9/11, I stayed in New York and attended every possible fireman and police benefit to show the city was still safe. In 2009 I got sick and took a break.
TA: In some of the recent interviews with you that I've read, like the one in "USA Today," the interviewer seems judgmental about your past drug use.
PM: In the 70s and the 80s, you did drugs while you were not working. I didn't go to rehab. I was very careful with myself. My bad thing was smoking. I was a thumb-sucker. When I pulled my thumb out at 11, I put a cigarette in. I smoked my first cigarette on the Parkway across from the school.
TA: Your mother must not have approved. From your memoir, I learned that you were pretty good at hiding things from her. It seems like reacting against your mother partially defined who you are, although you seem to have inherited your love of entertaining from her. Why did your mother teach dance?
PM: Because she didn't like my father. At 17, she wanted to be a dancer but she didn't because if you did, they called you a hussy. So, at 17, she had her own school in Pelham, New York. Then my parents moved to the Bronx. Then I came along, which was not an expected thing. I was not as, my mother liked to tell me -- thanks for sharing -- planned. But she loved dance and she thought everyone should have the experience of entertaining. And that activity saved her from an unhappy marriage. Since my brother, Garry, and my sister were older and out of the house, I got the brunt of my parents' dislike for each other. As I got older, I was a tomboy and I liked guys. I wanted to hang out with the guys. Not to be there in the cellar, dancing.