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A Penny for her thoughts



Date published: 10/1/2012

BY SUSAN KING

Los Angeles Times

When actress-director-producer Penny Marshall was a child, she wanted nothing more than to go outside and play. A tomboy, she envisioned becoming an athlete one day. Her mother had something else in mind.

With a dance school in the cellar of her Bronx apartment building, Marjorie Marshall tried to fashion Penny into a tap dancer. It didn't take. What did stick was a little of the craziness and humor that filled their household, which included big brother, now filmmaker, Garry Marshall ("Pretty Woman") and sister Ronny.

"She did influence all of us," Penny Marshall says of her mother. "She had a great sense of humor."

Marshall, 68, is in a mood to contemplate her past upon the release of her breezy new memoir, "My Mother Was Nuts," in which she chronicles her two failed marriages (including one to director Rob Reiner), her friendships with Carrie Fisher and John Belushi ("He was brilliantly talented. He would walk down the street and people would hand him [drugs] and he thought he was indestructible."), romance with Art Garfunkel and tight relationship with her brother.

"Our parents were crazy, so we had to stick together," she says of her siblings.

That closeness continued into adulthood as Garry Marshall opened doors for her in Hollywood, casting her in TV's "The Odd Couple" and tough-talking Laverne De Fazio opposite Cindy Williams from 1976-83 on ABC's "Laverne & Shirley."

Marshall segued into directing, helming such hits as 1988's "Big," which was the first movie directed by a woman to pass the $100-million mark at the box office, 1990's "Awakenings" and 1992's "A League of Their Own."

She hasn't made a feature since 2001's "Riding in Cars With Boys."

Studios, she said, "make horror films, films with car crashes and people in big metal suits. I don't do that. The independents do it, but you get paid a nickel and you are going to work as hard."

She has a documentary on former basketball star Dennis Rodman up next.