So it’s no surprise when Penny Marshall materializes in her sprawling, antique-filled Hollywood Hills home, hair pulled back in a ponytail, fresh from the shower…and already looking spent. “I’ve lost all concept of what day it is.” Marshall’s sister Ronny Marshall Hallin, 58, a TV producer, explains: “The whole family has a strong work ethic, and we feel guilty about doing just nothing.” When she’s on location, Marshall relaxes by sweeping the area for antiques, armed with a walkie-talkie to communicate with the set.
“It was like, ‘So-and-so could do it, why can’t you be more like so-and-so? “I think when the thumb came out of my mouth, the cigarette went in.” (It has stayed there since she was 13.) Acceptance was hard to come by on any front.
In the past 10 years, Marshall has directed six major films, two of which (Big and A League of Their Own) have topped 0 million at the box office. Vance, who plays the preacher in the movie, recalls that, at times, “we all felt the need to put our arms around her and ask, ‘Are you okay?
“Not many male directors can say they’ve done that,” observes longtime pal Carrie Fisher. It’s the kind of movie that fans and detractors agree Marshall really knows how to make: a heart-yanking, life-affirming crowd-pleaser. Last winter’s shoot was plagued by blizzards in New York and an unseasonable warm spell that made soup of an ice-skating set in Maine. ’ She almost had walking pneumonia.” Whitney Houston, who has the title role, says, “Penny has the stamina of a horse. She was the strongest of us all.” At times, though, the world seemed to be crashing down around her movie. Y., an apartment-building fire across from the church where she was filming killed two children.
And in October, a difficult year hit bottom with the death of her close friend of nearly three decades, That Girl star Ted Bessell.
Marshall is no stranger to heartbreak, including the end of her marriage to Rob Reiner in 1981 and the loss, two years later, of her mother, Marjorie, following a battle with Alzheimer’s.