'Laverne & Shirley's' Cindy Williams: Ron Howard, Penny Marshall were destined to direct
The actress played Ron Howard's girlfriend in the 1973 movie classic "American Graffiti," then worked with him again on the ABC sitcom "Happy Days" ... which yielded the hugely successful spinoff "Laverne & Shirley," teaming Williams with Penny Marshall. Still good friends, the women will reunite when their enduringly popular show gets the Fan Favorite honor at the TV Land Awards, to be televised by the nostalgia-driven network Sunday, April 29.
"Ron kept jumping out of the car during 'American Graffiti' and talking to Haskell Wexler, the cinematographer," Williams recalls to Zap2it about making the George Lucas-directed ode to teen life circa 1962. "He'd get back in the car -- we had no dressing rooms, so we'd sit in the car between takes -- and I'd ask him, 'What are you doing?' And he'd say, 'I'm asking Haskell how he's shooting this, because I want to direct movies.' And I thought, 'Yeah. Right.'
"Then, when we were doing 'More American Graffiti,' he also was doing something for [producer] Roger Corman and was again talking about how he wanted to make movies, and I took him a little more seriously. And now, I take him REALLY seriously." Howard's long line of varied hits as a director has run from "Cocoon," "Backdraft" and "Apollo 13" to "Parenthood," "The Da Vinci Code" and the Oscar-winning "A Beautiful Mind."
Marshall's brother Garry was the mentor of "Laverne & Shirley" (as well as "Happy Days"), and Williams remembers that Penny "directed a few of the shows. She was just very dynamic, sure on her feet, and there wasn't a false beat about her ... but I could always see that. That was no surprise." Penny Marshall's big-screen efforts as a director have included "Big," "Awakenings," "A League of Their Own" and the Whitney Houston-starring "The Preacher's Wife."
Williams has her own behind-the-camera credits, as a co-producer of Steve Martin's 1991 update of "Father of the Bride" and its 1995 sequel. "It was my idea to remake that movie," she says. "Television was my babysitter as a kid, and I had seen [the original 1950 version] when it was on. One morning, I thought, 'What a great remake that would be. It's like a big-screen situation comedy.'
"I knew it would have appeal across the board with men, women and kids. I mean, it's a wedding; what's not to love? And it just went from there, and I wanted it to be as beautiful as the first version (which starred Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor). And it was. Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers, who directed and wrote it, did just a brilliant job."