Penny Marshall Had to Promote ‘Riding in Cars With Boys’ Days After 9/11

Penny Marshall always stood out among interview subjects because of her brutal honesty.

For the 2001 Drew Barrymore film “Riding in Cars With Boys,” Marshall’s 7th and final film as a director, the junket took place in Los Angeles less than a month after 9/11. Having to promote a romantic comedy in the shadow of of the biggest terrorist attack on U.S. soil was “pretty sucky” she told us, right off the bat.

The Hollywood veteran had already directed a slew of future Oscar winners and A-list talent – Whoopi Goldberg in “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” Tom Hanks in “Big,” Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro in “Awakenings,” Hanks, Geena Davis, Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna in “A League of Their Own,” Danny DeVito and Gregory Hines in “Renaissance Man” and Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston in “The Preacher’s Wife” – before recruiting Barrymore, James Woods and Brittany Murphy for “Riding in Cars With Boys,” based on Beverly Donofrio’s autobiography about a teen mom who overcame difficulties to later earn a master’s degree.

With all of our thoughts still on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, Marshall made it clear during the interview that “there are days I don’t want to be doing this.”

But she is a professional who was contracted to promote her film – including its upcoming red carpet premiere in New York City that she still planned to attend, in part as a show of patriotism and resilience.   In that spirit, she dutifully went on to answer our questions about her directing style, her brother Garry Marshall, being a teen mom herself, her mastery of physical comedy, her hatred of EPK publicists on set, how she decompresses after a shoot, why she mumbles when she talks and more – all with her trademark honesty and humor.

Below are excerpts from that Oct. 7, 2001 radio roundtable in remembrance.

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