Film Maker Garry Marshall Explores Religion & Romance in ‘Raising Helen’

Producer/director Garry Marshall will tell you that television and film-making is, “…a crazy business. You never know; you work so hard and sometimes it comes out right. Sometimes it comes out right and something in history happens and knocks you out of the box. I’m such a total believer in making the process a good time and having lots of fun and making it memorable.”
One look at Marshall’s filmography will prove that he knows what he’s talking about; classic television sitcoms, The Odd Couple, and Happy Days, as well as popular feature films including Runaway Bride, and The Princess Diaries all bear the distinctive Marshall touch. His newest film, “Raising Helen,” proves that he still has what it takes to craft a movie that is a delightful twist-of-life movie.
In “Raising Helen,” Kate Hudson plays Helen Harris, an ambitious career woman who suddenly becomes the legal guardian of two nieces and a nephew. As Helen struggles to make the transformation from cool aunt to mom, she turns for help from Pastor Dan Parker, played by John Corbett, who is the principal of the children’s school.
“That was one reason that I took the picture,” Marshall explains. “I thought it was an interesting spin on the love story. I grew up everything. My real name is Marsciarelli, so I’m part Italian. I was not Catholic. I was actually Lutheran for a while and Episcopalian. I was baptized Presbyterian. So, I just thought having a minister as a love interest was an interesting thing. To be very honest, with some of the religious things going on in the news, I thought somewhere there should be a positive statement.
“We played it for a lot of religious people and they thought it was good. We can’t compete with Mel Gibson, but we figured we’d do our part.”
An obvious theme in Raising Helen is motherhood. “In my mind, this movie is a salute to parents and how hard it is to raise kids these days in this society of ours,” Marshall says. “I have three children. I have two sisters who have children; I’ve watched them go through all this and it’s a hard job. It means giving up some things.”
In the movie, Helen thinks she can keep her job at a top Manhattan modeling agency and raise her sister’s children. But she quickly learns that you can’t always have it all.
“You can’t really have it all so easy,” Marshall insists. “You can do a little of this or a little of that. In Raising Helen the scene I shot but never got in was at the end. The model agency wants her back so bad they set up a child care center. It’ll be in the DVD. That’s how it works; if your work has a child care center, you have a prayer of having a life and a career. They have them at Warner’s; they have them at Paramount; everybody has a child care center now. It’s not perfect, but it gives you a running shot. That’s what I think is important, that you have a chance to do both. With the help of the church and whatever, it’s another help.”
One of the signs of genius in any Garry Marshall production is his ability to gather just the right actors for a project, and the cast of Raising Helen is no exception, especially the children, played by Hayden Panettiere and real-life brother and sister Spencer and Abigail Breslin.
“It’s so hard to get kids to work,” Marshall admits. “The key to casting children is to cast their parents. They come and audition and I say, ‘They read well; where are their parents? Let me look at the parent.’ We bring in the parent and chat with them for a while.”
When movie-goers see a movie, they see the finished process. What they don’t see is the hard part; they don’t see the yards and yards of cut film lying on the editing room floor. Marshall explains.
“Shooting is pleasant; in editing, you make the movie. I’ve spent all my life in editing. You can do anything with editing. It’s a whole process that you take in, you take out. When you’re my age – not old, but still peppy – you’ve done certain scenes before; you’ve done the love montage. You’ve done looking for a job. You’ve done looking for an apartment. So you keep looking for different ways to do it. Editing is in and out and what’s going to work. Those are the choices.
“I’m not from the school of, ‘Hello, I’m a genius; everybody shut up.’ I’m from, ‘Let’s play it once in front of an audience and I’ll tell you where it’s going.’ I play a couple of previews before I even show the film to the studio and I can get a feel of what is working and what isn’t. It always surprises you; by far the favorite scene with every audience is when the Indian lady came and kicked everybody out. One of my favorite scenes is out of the film because we didn’t deliver the goods. That’s what editing is really about. It’s where to work it and how to engage the audience.” — Garry Marshall on “Raising Helen”


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