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Garry Marshall and Doris
MARSHALL AND DORIS ROBERTS
by Brad Balfour
©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
May 19, 2006.
What can you say about Garry Marshall and Doris Roberts when it comes to
These are two of humor's royalty – both wearing crowns for various
achievements; Roberts for acting in her many many TV series and shows
including playing Raymond's mother in Everybody Loves Raymond and
Marshall for writing or producing or acting in so many great TV comedies
and films that it seems impossible one man could do so much. From creating
the TV version of the The Odd Couple to Mork and Mindy to
Laverne and Shirley he defined the sit com. Then he went on to
transfer these skills to such films as Pretty Woman and The
Flamingo Kid. And as far acting – it's exhausting just thinking of all
But here they are starring in Marshall's son Scott's feature debut,
Keeping Up with the Steins, his sometimes deft, sometimes sloppy look
at the wacky world of rich people and their ridiculous diversions like Bar
Mitzvahs that cost around the budget of a West African country. Yet with a
cast that includes these two, Jeremy Piven and Jamie Gertz you can believe
that if Bar Mitzvah boy Benjamin Fiedler (Daryl Sabara) doesn't learn
about becoming a man, he'll at least learn how to get some laughs.
Are either of you Jewish?
Doris Roberts: I am.
I'm Italian and part English, but mostly Italian. My father was Italian,
but he changed our name to Marshall, and my sister Penny is also Italian,
and so is my son.
Were you aware of any of the Bar Mitvah/Bat Mitzvah details before
I grew up in the Bronx, and there's a lot going on in the Bronx,
especially with Jews and Italians, and even more so with my son, who grew
up in LA. In his school, there were a lot of Bat Mitzvahs.
What do you think of this phenomenon of the competition between the
families to outdo each other for these Bar and Bat Mitvahs?
Doris Roberts: I think it's outrageous and stupid.
Because you lose the true meaning of it?
Doris Roberts: Absolutely. Like the movie tells you, you're losing
the whole point of what the whole ritual is about.
Have you noticed that going on in the Jewish community?
Doris Roberts: Not in my community, no but I think that the picture
tells it very well.
Did you grow up Reform or Orthodox?
Doris Roberts: (laughs) Somebody asked me who taught me
about the Jewish religion. My grandfather was a womanizer, and he didn't
have time to go to Shul. Unfortunately, no, I didn't.
Garry Marshall: Referring back to the previous question, I see it
in a lot of ways, in Hollywood, in Beverly Hills, in show business, in
weddings, in bar mitzvahs, in sweet sixteens…
Doris Roberts: Even in little birthday parties.
Yeah. There's a whole thing that they had that my grandson went to: he's
three! He went to a birthday party, and they had a band, and everybody had
a special [gift]—I mean they're three years old, and already they're
getting souvenir bags from the birthday parties! It used to just be a
Is it then something that's changed from what it once was?
Well, I think there're a lot of affluent people that instead of helping
out others, they're helping their families. I think it comes from the
Europeans struggling to come over here—my family's from Italy and my
great-great-grandfather made fourteen trips on a boat to Brooklyn in order
to go back, and give the family money. As you go through the generations,
you think, "Well, I can give my family what I never had," and they give 'em
too much, and they wonder why they're not doing well.
I have to be very honest, since we're talking seriously—you can take a
little serious, can't you? There are kids out in LA, and there are kids
here at NYU that are jumping out of windows, in LA they're ODing on drugs.
Almost every month somebody's kid that I know goes.
I've often asked Scott, my son, "How did we get you through that part of
your life?" He says two things: one is sports… He's always been interested
in sports. The other thing was the simple fact was that one of us was
always home. Either I was home, or my wife was home. There was always
somebody that he should go home to, but with a lot of kids there's no
reason to go home. It's getting messy, and I think part of that material
thing is undercutting that part of the emotions that are left in the
Speaking seriously also, how instrumental were you in getting this film
made, because you have a tremendous influence in
Hollywood, and your son is coming to this as his first feature?
I must say, I had no influence on this picture. I have always encouraged
him because that's what he always wanted to be. My sister Penny, and I
both shot second unit for this picture, and he learned [the ropes] and had
gone to film school.
I remember, A League of Their Own, Penny's shooting, and I'm
acting. The director has six cameras, and 1700 extras, and some of them
are cardboard. Penny starts yelling, and somebody tells her, "It's
cardboard, Penny! You're yelling at cardboard!" She has a bullhorn. I tell
her, "Isn't this great, honey?" and she says, "Yeah, but we really should
send one of the kids to film school because we don't know what we're
doing!" (laughs) He, on his own, got this picture, and I was not
his first choice as the actor…
You really weren't the first choice?
No, he was trying to get Carl Reiner or Mel Brooks… Martin Landau was
close. But I have to be honest with you, this is not a big-budget film
where you could PAY somebody. He finally, because—it wasn't even him—he
needed an office to interview the kids in, and I was the only one that
could read with them. I took them into my office, and I read with them
every few days, and the producers finally said, "We're not doing well with
Irwin, what about your father?" He said, "MY FATHER?! Oh, they'll all
think it's his picture!" And I said, "Well, let's make the picture with
him!" They had Doris, who I knew, Jamie and Jeremy who I didn't know too
How was it being directed by your son?
It was good. Doris knew me, so I had said earlier to the cast, "I am NOT
butting in so whatever he says to you, deal with it!"
So there were no fistfights and no grand proclamations to disown him?
No, no. She knew how to do it, she knows when to say, "Scott, I think it's
better if I go over here," so he learned to be open to actors, that after
all their years might know better than him. Actors always know how they're
going to look better.
Doris Roberts: His instincts are absolutely wonderful. He creates
an ambience that makes you feel so free, and lets you do your own thing.
He's very good, he's really very good, and the picture shows it.
You did raise a point: what about the nude scene? Did he say, "Dad,
you're gonna show your tuchus?"
No, no. Nobody wanted to do it. No, he said, "We have no body doubles, no
money! You're going to have to do it all yourself." I said, "Well, I'll
give it a shot."
Did he have to twist your arm to do it with Darryl Hannah?
No, he first told me that Darryl Hannah was going to do it, that's how he
proposed it. "Darryl Hannah's really pretty, isn't she?" And I said,
"Yeah." And he said, "Well, you'll go in the water with her." Naked. That
You haven't seen the reverse shot of that, right?
Doris Roberts: We found out he was not Jewish (laughs).
So in other words, a reverse shot was taken?
No, she just stood there!
Wait, is this going to go on the DVD?
Doris Roberts: We also had a great kissing scene at the end of the
film. Oh yeah, that was hot.
We burned up that screen.
How many takes did it take,
Doris Roberts: Five.
We were cookin'.
Doris Roberts: It was a good time, honey.
Did you keep Penny off set for that?
No, my sister Penny came one day just to say hi to everybody, but she
doesn't butt in. My wife didn't come that day.
Did your wife have to stay off the set?
She didn't come for that scene.
How long have you two known each other?
Doris Roberts: He was my boss back in 1979 on a show called
Yes, we had a sitcom that ran for a couple of years.
How did you come to the project?
Doris Roberts: They offered me this job, and it was very nice.
Did you know his son when he was a little boy? Was it weird then being
directed by him?
Doris Roberts: No, I didn't know Scott back then. They never
brought him around.
We brought him around on the Mork and Mindy set a lot. Scotty loved
Doris Roberts: The set was right across from our set.
You mentioned at a recent screening that it's good to be involved in a
show that has Jewish content but isn't about the Holocaust…
Doris Roberts: That's right, I think so, and it's sad.
Was that something that you brought to the film?
Doris Roberts: Yeah, I did, and I loved it. I loved the character
because women are divorced or left, and they turn out to be so angry or
bitter about life, and they just ruin the rest of their lives being that,
and hating men, and all that stuff. I didn't want to do that because I
still love this guy, and it didn't work because he's a goof-off, but I
Was the script written that way or did you ad-lib the stuff going on
because that was done so well.
Doris Roberts: I didn't ad-lib at all. It's just my choice of
script was really very good.
Did you two get a chance to do any improvisation together?
Not much, we had an open run once, and we ran it together. We kept
rehearsing and rehearsing to make it better, and natural, because again, I
was all wrong, but I said, "That's the way it is." When I said, "I don't
want to be a schmuck," she said, "Here's what the schmucks do." There's
this theme that I think is one of the most important speeches in the
picture. In a society totally driven by celebrities, nobody cares about
the average guy. The statement for that was really very good, by Mark
Zacherin, the writer.
When you did Mork and Mindy, was there a little bit of an
improvisational shoot-out between you and Robin Williams from time to
There was a lot of imagination on that show.
Doris Roberts: He's on another planet… that one is.
I mean I've had, thank goodness, some successes, but the most packed
audience I've ever seen were not for the Mork and Mindy show, but
for the warm-up, when Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams did the warm-up.
From every studio they came, and then as soon as the show started they
went home, but the regular audience stayed. There was a lot of improv on
Scott's done some acting as well?
Yes, we make him. Once a year, every kid had to do a little something so
that they knew what I meant by, "I'm going to work."
How did he communicate with you onset? Did he use actors' terminology?
How did he tell you what he wanted?
With me, he did both. He would say, "Dad, remember the time you talked to
me when we walked home from that little league game when I struck out?
I'll always remember the way you put your arm around me, and that was good
because I thought you hated me." I said, "Well, I was not thrilled you
didn't swing! You didn't swing the bat! (laughs)." Sometimes he'd
do that, and sometimes he'd just say, "Too over the top, dad. Don't carry
on. Just do it honestly. He did it both ways, and fortunately a lot of
directing after going through the artistic part is, "If you lean a little
closer to Doris like this so we're leaning and getting in the shots."
Doris Roberts: We had a very small area.
We weren't actually on sets. We were in a house, so they couldn't just
pull a wall, so it was a little hard. Thank goodness he technically knows
And how did you react to Scott's direction?
Doris Roberts: I would do something, and he would be encouraging,
and say, "Let's do another shot, and let's see what else we can do," and I
would do it.
She can give you a lot of spin, but she kept that character positive,
which I thought was amazing. There was no bitter, old lady in there at
Doris Roberts: I thought it would be a good role model for women,
not to be diminished by the fact that their man left them. That they are
important. That they don't have to see their reflection in a man's eyes to
know that they are an entity. There was always some possibility of some
minute, little thing that showed you that there was still a great, little
The laughter, the way that we made each other laugh.
But no ménage a trios.
Who knows? Both my sisters are divorced, and Scott has gone through that,
and he understands it all, and I think he was very happy the way she was
Are you happy with the roles that have been coming your way ever since
Everybody Loves Raymond? Are you finding that people are trying to get
you to go back and play Marie?
Doris Roberts: I won't do it though. I've done three films since
then, and it's all completely different.
Is it hard for you to get people in
Hollywood to see that?
Doris Roberts: No, the difficulty now is that people say, "Oh, I
love her, God, I love her, but she's too identifiable." That's terrible
because I'm a character actor. I'm totally different in that Hallmark
project, I wear a dark wig and you totally wouldn't know it was me.
I thought you were great in Grandma's Boy.
Doris Roberts: I had quite a bit of fun with that role, I really
You had a lot of great actresses to work with.
Doris Roberts: That's right. The girls were fabulous.
I noticed the basketball scene in the film. How did that come to be?
That was written, but he wouldn't let me shoot enough really fascinating
shots. I can make a shot from the three-point line.
Can you really?
Oh yeah, three-point shots I can make, but I couldn't make it a lot of the
time, and he was running out of film. I did the foul shots, and I did a
hook shot he should have used, but he didn't, and it's his picture. That
was the only tense part.
He didn't quite appreciate you as a basketball player the same way that
you appreciate yourself as a basketball player?
Exactly, that's very true. But also it was shot at 7 o'clock in the
morning so I would say, "Kobe's not so good this early in the morning
either! One more, give me one more shot!"
And he said, "Excuses, excuses," right?
He said, "We haven't got enough film, leave me alone!"
When he was a kid playing basketball how were you with him?
He was a good basketball player. I was a little harsh at times, but I tell
you there was that incident with baseball where he wouldn't swing, because
kids are afraid that the ball will hit them, and they'll die, so he
wouldn't swing. My wife tells me, "For one game, don't say anything," and
he doesn't swing at the ball, and we're going home, and my wife says,
"Don't say anything." We get out of the car, and we get out, and he says,
"Wait a minute, dad. I forgot my bat." I said, "Why do you need it?! You
never swing it anyway!" My wife hit me. I said, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't
have said that!" But that's as far as I went, and I stopped doing that.
I love that scene in the film with the cane.
Yeah, that was definitely written in. I thought it was a great statement
for seniors not to get a cane, because so many seniors are getting beat up
and mugged wherever they go, and somebody's got to say, "STOP!" I thought
it was good to depict one man who gave it a shot. That was Adam Goldberg,
a very good actor from Band of Brothers. He and Scotty went to
school together and they knew each other, so he came to do him a favor.
Did this movie bring flashbacks for both of you in terms of memories from
the past, growing up and dealing with kids? Did it bring back good
memories, or like you said with the basketball scene that weren't so good?
No, most of it was good, most of the memories, for me. Scotty had a
certain tone, and honestly we just followed him, and Jeremy, who is a
pistol, and we worked with him. With him, you have to be ready, because he
could go anywhere. He's great, you know with his emotional range.
What are you working on next or what are you acting in next?
Doris Roberts: I don't know yet (laughs).
But you see we don't say, "Doris, will you come in for a reading?" You
know what she does, you know she had perfect timing when she was 18, and
she has perfect timing now. A lot of people lose it, but hers is still
perfect. I'm back to chick flicks is what I'm doing.
What are you doing next?
Looks like this film called Georgia Rules, with Jane Fonda,
Felicity Huffman and Lindsay Lohan, which is all about three generations
of the same family. It's a very interesting piece. It's a little heavy,
but we're in luck, because it changes tomorrow, this business. It's
written by Mark Andris, who wrote As Good As It Gets. He's a very
fine writer. He's a Mormon, and it takes place in Idaho, and there's a
Mormon touch, but none of the three women are Mormon.
Was it interesting getting a chance to work with Richard Benjamin? I
don't know how much contact you guys had with him, but…
Richard, and I were at college together at the same time. Both of us are
from Northwestern, just like Scotty, and Richard was years ahead of me, he
was a senior when I was coming in. He was dating Paula Prentiss back then.
It was great to see him again. Scotty went to me and said, "I need a rabbi
that has the weight that you can believe," and he showed me the list, and
I said, "Richard Benjamin! Great director," and all directors are really
nice as actors because we know the problems, so all directors behave. And
Richard did, as I did. Sydney Pollack is a great person again; he behaves
As a rabbi (laughs)? Have you given up on TV though? Are you
just directing and acting, no more TV?
The reason is it's all blended now. Everybody can direct. Barry Levinson
did a whole box. Jerry Bruckheimer is doing a bunch of series…
Doris Roberts: He directed an opera last year.
You directed an opera?
An opera, yes, she was my advisor.
But you didn't sing?
No singing. 83 people on the stage on the stage at the same time, it was…
It was a comedy, right?
Yeah, it was Aufencbach's Grand Duchess of Geraldstein, the
greatest opera in the world. It was a satirical opera that Aufenbach wrote
in the 1860s. He's against the army, and the government, and we made kind
of a fun thing out of it. A lot of people came to see this—we packed 3100
seats for this.
Have you been an opera fan for a long time?
Actually, no. She's been an opera fan for a long time, and my wife for
years has been a big opera fan. Placido Domingo convinced me: "We need the
comedy, you'll come, and we'll do this."
Are you entertaining the notion of producing something for yourself?
Doris Roberts: I do, I have…
She's got a couple of good scripts, I read one of them.
Where are they in terms of development and production?
Doris Roberts: One is with Adam Sandler's company, and they're
excited about it,
and there are others that I haven't really gone after, but now that I have
time, I can.
Did you actually initiate it? Was it your idea?
Doris Roberts: No, I got a script, and thought about working on it.
It's interesting, I had a wonderful writer, a film writer, and he and I
worked together on a sitcom, and it was very funny, and very original and
awfully good, and you wouldn't believe this but the networks said, "No,
he's a film writer, he can't write for sitcoms." It really makes no sense.
Would you have Gary direct?
Doris Roberts: No, but that would be fun.
If she had a script, I'd do that. They did that, with Terrence McNally's
Frankie & Johnny, and I said, "Okay, Terrence will write it," but
they said, "Oh no, he doesn't do screenplays, he does those plays." We
said, "He wrote the play! He knows how!" and I truly backed it, and said,
"If it doesn't come out right, I'll redo it for no money at all," and he
wrote beautifully The Great Ending, and they then said, "You want
to do another one for us, Terrence?"
Doris Roberts: Terrence McNally and I did Bad Habits
together on Broadway.
Would you consider doing another TV series?
Doris Roberts: Sure, it just has to be the right thing.
Do you get offers? Dramas or sitcoms?
Doris Roberts: Yeah, but nothing I've really cared about, and
having worked nine years straight, I have time to take a little time off.
Would you tell us the name of the writer that was summarily dismissed?
Doris Roberts: George Gallo, who wrote Midnight Run, and a
lot of other good movies. He's a wonderful writer. I mean, they're insane.
They're insane, that's all.
How do you feel this film will connect, being a specific kind of film
about a Jewish family, with everybody else? What's the most important
thing you think that it's about?
Doris Roberts: It's about a family, it's about getting together,
it's a lot about hope—it's about hope because I don't think that the state
of Indiana has ever seen as Bar Mitzvah; they'll see it for the first
They played it in Kentucky, and the four kids there had no idea what a Bar
Mitzvah was. They played it, and once the picture opened it was explained,
and they understood very well with parents not speaking to each other…
So it's not so much about a Bar mitzvah as it is about family.
Doris Roberts: And relationships. To talk about Hollywood, Mr.
Goldwyn heard about this play called, Trio—this was many, many
years ago, and he turns to his right-hand man, and he says, "Get the
rights to that, we'll do it as a movie," because it was a big hit. The man
said, "I don't think so, Mr. Goldwyn," and he said, "Well, why not?" and
he said, "Because it's a play about lesbians," and he said, "That's okay,
we'll make them Hungarians" (laughs).
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