I'm not a big fan of The Princess Diaries. Not that I've seen it. I haven't. I just know that it single-handedly ushered in a Teen Girl renaissance at the box office that refuses to die. Now everything has come full circle with the first sequel to this adolescent nightmare.
Some people say that it's better than the first. Some say it's worse. I say, "The Hell if I know." I'm not about to watch either one of them. What I will do, though, is sit down with its adult cast members and hand-catch a few scribbled sentences in pain just for you, my friend.
Read on and enjoy more about the Princess Diaries than you ever wanted to know…
- Hector Elizondo -
Elizondo: Hi, how are you?
Elizondo: Where are you from?
Elizondo: Well, that's foreign. You can't get there from here. That's Genovia (the fake country in the movie), you know? Burbank is the most exotic place.
O: How did you come to work with Garry Marshal so many times?
Elizondo: It didn't start off well. No. Our initial meeting was auspicious. Actually, it was less than that. I was invited to a basketball game twenty-five years ago. I love sports. Even though I'm a senior citizen, I still play. This was a basketball game. Someone said, "Ah, come on, this is a floating basketball game that they've been playing for twelve years." Little did I know that they were going to play for another twenty. I said, "Who is it with?" And they said, "It's with a producer. I think his name is Marshal." Who knows producers? They don't have faces, right? I was a theater guy from New York. So I said, "Okay, I'll go play basketball with a producer." Good ball players. They told me there weren't many actors. I said, "There aren't too many actors? Good, I'll go." It was mostly writers. "Writers are cool. I'll go over there." So, sure enough, it was a lot of guys from the Bronx. Already they were funny. They spoke in a way I could understand. And the jokes were flying. I said, "This is comfortable." But nobody had introduced me to the gentleman that owned the court. It was his house. He was among the pack of teams who were chosen. We start playing. I dribble the ball. I do a from the back pass, and I hit this fellow that is guarding me right in the mouth. He falls to a knee, and everyone gathers around him. It was like that old EF Hutton commercial. I say, "What the Hell's the big deal? He got hurt? Everybody gets hurt once in awhile." I didn't mean to do it. He says, "Come over here." He's holding his mouth. I thought, "Is this guy going to give me a hard time?" He says, "You're a terrific actor but a lousy passer. I think I got a movie." That was the moment I said, "What in God's name is he saying?" Anyway…We laughed. One thing led to another. We'd talk in-between games. It was, and still is, I think, our favorite movie in terms of a benchmark. It's more than nostalgic. It was Young Doctors in Love. That was in 1980. And that's how it started. The movie was just an idea. It was ABC's first movie. It was Jerry Bruckhiemer's first feature. I said, "Jerry who?" He said, "Bruckhiemer." I was like, "Oh, alright. I'll do this little movie. What's it about?" "Well, it's a little of this and a little of that." In true Garry fashion, it wasn't clearly laid out, it was in code. He says, "I've seen you on stage for years in New York. And I saw you when you did this…" I say, "Yeah, okay…" He says, "Do you think a gorilla suit is funny." I'll never forget this. I said, "A gorilla suit? That's funny for about two minutes. Besides, it was in Where's Poppa? That was already done. I think a gorilla suit has already been done." He says, "But that's a funny thing." So I say, "Well, give me a context." "Alright, you want a context? Then here it is." So he lays out a plot. And it's then that I realize this thing isn't written. Yet. And that's how it started. We figured out the character, then the character became more complex and nuanced. I said, "Ah, it's not so funny." I don't hit something on the nose. I like to do it indirectly.
O: You've been in every one of his films?
O: Do you have a favorite one of them?
Elizondo: Young Doctors has to be among them. They're favorites for different reasons.
O: Not Pretty Woman?
Elizondo: Pretty Woman was of course the most financially successful. That was the one that I had the least expectations for. It was the easiest one to do.
O: You have such a large part in that movie. Your character is really pivotal…
Elizondo: That's interesting. That's a lesson in good writing. When you're part of the narrative, and you make the story flow, you don't have to be in the movie much. It's better for them to talk about you, or to see the results of your involvement. Rather than to be on the screen. Garry said, "Do you know how long you're on the screen?" He says, "We shot a lot. It's about one-quarter of what we shot that's on the screen."
Elizondo: Well, that's what happens. And he says. "You're in the movie, maybe, not ten minutes." That's right. That's a lesson in writing.
O: Is it a given that you're going to be in all of his movies, or do you wait for his phone call, wondering…
Elizondo: I don't wonder about anything. I'm too old to wonder. I think the most important thing is to wake-up with a pulse. I look in the obituary columns. If I'm not in it, I get out of bed.
O: Would you ever turn Gary down if it were a part you didn't like?
Elizondo: No. Not at this point. There is no part. One thing that has been constant is that we create the roles. There's an idea. Sometimes, there's not a role at all, and we have to figure something out. Now, it's a matter of not breaking the streak. Sometimes, I only do unbilled cameos. They're my favorite. Like, in my last one…What was my last one?
O: Raising Helen.
Elizondo: Right. I said, "There's no role here for me." He said, "I know, I know…We'll take this guy, and we'll do it like this, and that's what we'll do." We do follow a certain rule. Does it help the story? Does it help the narrative? If it doesn't, then we don't go in that direction.
O: In this one, you get the girl.
Elizondo: I've gotten the girl before. And this is a heck of a girl, huh?
O: Did you find it daunting to fall in love with such an idol as Julie Andrews?
Elizondo: I'm too dumb to be intimidated by someone. That never happened. Not even as a young actor. Either people are nice to work with, or they're not. I'm always disappointed. I've been disappointed a few times. I thought they had better chops than that. They have such a huge name, and they really can't cut it. I only judge them by how professional they are, how well they treat other people. Malcolm X said, "You can judge a person's character by how they treat those that can do nothing for them, or too them." That's a formula you can apply to anyone, anywhere. That's what I do. That, you can watch by not saying anything. You just have to watch how they react on set. Right? I admire talent. It's nice. Everybody has it. We all have it. But that's no big deal. It's character that really counts. Give me someone with 90% character, and 10% talent, and you're going to get a better job. But Julie has character and talent. That's one way to get the combo. I was lucky. She was a dream to work with. I didn't have to worry about her. Often times I'm in the situation where I have to go, "Are they going to go this way, or that way?" You can't really concentrate on your own work. It's all about rhythm, and timing, and sniffing the air. Believability, and if that is comedy. If that's funny. Is this funnier than this. To work with someone like her only makes you better. Because you can concentrate on your own work.
O: You're in the Celestine Prophecy, right?
Elizondo: Yeah, I did a cameo in that.
O: What are you playing in that?
Elizondo: The cardinal. He speaks Spanish only. It takes place in Peru. I didn't want to hide tradition, so I said, "Have subtitles, for goodness sake." So that's what we did. I can't really go into that too much. It's a big secret.
O: Oh, really.
Elizondo: Everyone knows about the book. I don't know how many people have actually read it.
O: So, you speak Spanish?
Elizondo: I speak unaccented in both languages. It's not a problem.
O: You speak Genovianese as well.
Elizondo: That was very difficult. You can have any accent in Genovia, so it's for everybody. I love Genovia. It's a great inventive place that has to exist. I decided to give myself a challenge. I decided to do the most general foreign accent. It's not really important. It's a big fantasy. I just had to make it a little foreign.
O: How did you do that?
Elizondo: That was hard. That was difficult. If you have to speak Russian, that's one thing. Because it's simple. It's a general Eastern-European sound. I love Russian, because it's delicious to speak like that. If you have to speak French, you can also do that, because it's not difficult. Accents are a cool thing to do. And I love doing them. But it's hard to do an accent that is not an accent. It's not quite…What is it? I had to stay with it. It's very difficult to slip into, because it's neither here nor there.
O: What role do people recognize you for the most?
Elizondo: I'm often mistaken for Ben Kingsley. I like that. I say, "Yes, of course, I'm Ben Kingsley." Actually, I'm always shocked. Pretty Lady, of course. I was on a talk show on television, and I was talking to these two gray haired little old ladies. Just kibitzing before the start of the show. And one lady said, "Didn't you used to be Michael Ansara?" Maybe you don't know who he is. He played Cochise on television in the fifties. He was an exotic, wonderful looking fellow. The only thing we have in common in real life was actually our Turkish decent. I said, "That's wonderful. How do I answer that? Didn't you used to be Michael Ansara?" I live for moments like that. Yeah, I get recognized for Pretty Woman. Tons of roles.
O: Can you not walk into the Regent Beverly Wilshire, now?
Elizondo: Oh, yeah…I'm the manager. They had a ceremony for me and made me honorary manager. They said that any time I want a room, I can have one. I've never taken them up on that. Also, people still asked to see the manager. Especially Japanese. When the real manager shows up and tells them that I was only an actor, they're very disappointed.
O: Would you ever do another TV show?
Elizondo: Oh, yeah. I don't know if I'd do another hour. I don't have time for that. I have other things to do. A half hour, I might be interested. Especially if it's close to where I live. If it makes me happy, and it makes me laugh. Anything else you want to know? I do love the movie.
O: No, I think that's about it.
Elizondo: Thank you…
- Julie Andrews -
Andrews: Good morning. Who did you just talk to?
O: Hector Elizondo. Your boyfriend…
Andrews: Oh, sweet Hector. The love of my life. Yes. Sorry, I just got covered with pen. So, how are you? Are you awake? I'm gradually waking up.
O: Are you a morning person?
Andrews: Yes. Mostly. There are those lovely Sundays where you say, "I think I'll stay in bed and have a cup of tea."
O: You seem to be playing yourself in this movie…
Andrews: What I'm maybe like? That's absolutely true.
O: Did you ever consciously think that you were playing a version of yourself in this film?
Andrews: No, I never consciously thought about that. Maybe in terms of being Grandmotherly, I used things that I do or know. The script dictated it, too.
O: Have you realized that you might be the biggest star of the summer when you add this in with your performance in Shrek?
Andrews: No, I have not been aware of that. I hope that this is extremely successful. But, my God, what a summer it's been. Especially for me. It's amazing.
O: Did you think you'd ever be blowing all these big summer movie stars out of the water, like Tom Cruise?
Andrews: Based on this morning's reviews, Mr. Tom Cruise is going to do very well. It looks like it's a great movie. Have you seen it?
Andrews: I hope it's good. There's a lot of great stuff out there this summer. I mean, really. I want to see the Manchurian Candidate, I want to see Collateral, I want to see…Oh, God, there's another one…The Village.
O: When you put on all these beautiful jewels, does that help transform you?
Andrews: Yes it does. There's absolutely no doubt about it. It does wonders for a woman's self esteem. You just feel that you look a little more glamorous.
O: Did you have a favorite outfit?
Andrews: Yeah. I loved the first one. The beautiful, long gown that you see as I come in at the beginning of the picture. It's right at the beginning of the movie when they say, "She's coming, she's coming!" And I come in and twirl. It's the long gown. It was the most beautiful material. It was slightly beaded. It made me feel great.
O: Did you get to keep it?
Andrews: No. I wish. You know what? I'd love to keep it. But I'd have to put it away for a couple of years, because everyone would say, "That's the gown from the Princess Diaries."
O: Where the jewels real?
Andrews: All of them were real. The tiara was real. You can see the necklace out there on display. It is divine. I would have loved to keep the earrings. But, no way…
O: Did they have guards standing over you?
Andrews: I had a man literally following ten paces behind me at all times. Yes.
O: What do they do when you have to go to the restroom?
Andrews: They stand outside. Yes, they do. And they check you as you come out.
O: You didn't have time to slip in a fake version.
Andrews: No, I didn't. But wouldn't that have been fun?
O: You said you wanted to see the Manchurian Candidate. You, yourself, are in a lot of old, classic films. Does the idea of a remake bother you?
Andrews: I must say; I do love the original Manchurian Candidate. It's brilliant. It's odd that you should ask, because I was thinking about this the other day. If you're a country and western singer, you'll rehash songs, and do them over in a different way, over and over again. Someone is always coming back. Streisand always does Happy Days are Here Again. They're old, old songs. But she does it in such a wonderful way, she makes it fresh. So, in a way, why shouldn't you remake a movie? We suspect, and it's probably true, that they do it for different reasons. They were successful; let's see if they can do it again. I think, ultimately, "Why not?"
O: When we talked to Jackie Chan for Around the World in 80 Days, Jackie said he'd love to remake Sound of Music…What do you think about that?
Andrews: Well, would he play the part of Maria?
O: I don't know what he'd do. Tell me about the singing aspects of this. Where you apprehensive about it?
Andrews: Very. I don't really sing. To be truthful with you, I know a lot of people think I do. If you look at the movie again, you'd know what I did. I actually talk-sing. It's very, very low. And you can hear that I'm not able to sing. I'm thrilled that we pulled it off. Gary promised me that if it didn't work, we wouldn't have it in the movie. We both mutually agreed that we both had to like it. I wasn't even sure that it was appropriate for the movie. That it might hold up the action too much. Never the less, I'm pleased that it's there. It's sweet.
O: Was it fun to see a young woman, such as Anne Hathaway, become a star? Since you were there from the very beginning of her career?
Andrews: Yes. It's wonderful. Do I need to say that she's beautiful? Do I need to say that she's talented? She has a wonderful way with humor. She's very good at comedy, which is very rare for a young lady. She really is going to be a big star. She's a very good actress. She's also a beautiful person inside. It's lovely to see that. There's a lot of talent out there. Even with the first Princess Diaries, I realized that the young stars were disciplined, and they worked for their craft. They appeared on time. They were courteous. It's lovely to see.
O: A lot of times sequels don't live up to the first one…
Andrews: I think this is better than the first one. I hoped that it would be good. I realized that sequels are kissed off to some extent. But I think this has more substance. It has a better storyline. I might have been curious as to what they would do with a sequel. But Gary, I know, will pull it off. We're all in safe hands with Gary.
O: Would you ever try mattress surfing?
Andrews: I won't ever try it again if I can avoid it. It's too dangerous.
O: You had a stunt person for that, right?
Andrews: No, no…I did it. Look at the movie. It's me. It took a lot of takes.
O: You never know these days with CGI. You have grandchildren. Are you afraid you may walk in on them Mattress surfing?
Andrews: As long as it's not my stairs. I do see Parlors springing up all over America. New mattress surfing franchises will appear everywhere.
O: Why would you do this with CGI available?
Andrews: Because it was there. Because I had people standing by me all the way. It's many cuts, you have to understand. It looks like one slide, but it's not.
O: Why do you think this movie has such resonance with little girls?
Andrews: I think everybody, when they're young, likes to play dress-up. I think it's usually; you try it on for size. Really, as a kid, you tend to enjoy the fantasy that you might be a Princess. Or that you might be one day. Or that you may have the perks that a Princess has. It's also a classic Cinderella story with a spin. There are only five or six great fairytale stories. This is done differently, with a different spin on it. Little girls can identify with it.
O: What was the evolution of your relationship with Hector in this movie?
Andrews: I can't tell you how many people stopped me on the street, or asked me, "Is Hector going to be in the second one? And were you really an item in the first one?" We had so much fun in that first one saying, "We know we're an item, but lets just suggest it, maybe." Then, everyone seemed to want it to go somewhere. And Gary said, "Sure." It was so obvious that they wanted it. And I was delighted.
O: Have you written anything lately?
Andrews: Oh, you bet. I'm surprised it isn't down here. There's a new book that I just wrote about a dog called Dragon. It's based on a Medieval fable set in 14th century France, which took the most enormous amount of research. I can't tell you. It's based on a true legend that I sort of stumbled on. And I knew that I wanted to write about it right away. Because it was just a germ of a legend. It was just the gist of it. I wanted to know more about it, so I had to write about it.
O: When does that come out?
Andrews: It's just out now. It came out in July, maybe. It's called Dragon: Hound of Honor.
O: Do you have another one in the works?
Andrews: I do. I'm writing one right this minute. I have a publishing imprint that I've been writing under for the last three years. The actual imprint, my Daughter and I run together. She's the artistic director. And she does the business side of it as well. She's a far better writer than I am.
O: What is the new one going to be about?
Andrews: Would you mind if I didn't reveal it? If I reveal it, you'll now where I'm going. I'd rather it be a surprise.
O: Will we see it next year?
O: Would you do a third Princess Diaries?
Andrews: I'd be delighted. Why not? I think it's a lovely franchise.
O: What about Shrek 3?
Andrews: There's a lot of talk about it. Yeah. I'm not sure. There is talk.
O: What would you like to do that you haven't done yet?
Andrews: Tons of stuff. Not in my profession, necessarily. I'd love to study things.
O: Okay, I think that about wraps stuff up.
Andrews: Thank you.
There. Are you a better person now for having read about the Princess Diaries 2? I know I am…
The movie opens today! Seeing it is entirely up to you.
Dont't forget to also check out: The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement