I listened to two audiobooks on my drive this past week. Tatum O’Neill’s A Paper Life, which made me realize once again that there are definitely men who make singlehood look like the preferable state, and Penny Marshall’s My Mother Was Nuts. One of the things that struck me in Marshall’s book was how, despite greater sexism and less “cushy” lives, things seemed much easier and less competitive in her day (perhaps one of the problems is that there are just too many people now):
Looking at your career, it’s so interesting to see how directing kind of just fell into your lap. You had such success in front of the camera, and all of a sudden comes a directing career. And you first learned from Spielberg, of all people!
Well he was always encouraging. He’d come over to the house and see me doing jigsaw puzzles, which I had an addiction to, and he’d say, “That’s editing.” And then he’d see me talk to all these neurotic guys. He’d say [whispering] “That’s directing.” You have to hold their hand, and tell them what to do. I never said I wanted to direct; I had done a couple of Laverne & Shirley’s but everyone did. Cindy [Williams] did! Michael McKean! The script girl! Anyone around! Who wants to direct this week?
You bore witness to so many changes in the industry, on both sides of the camera, over your career. The way television works now compared to how it was made back in the Laverne & Shirley days… there was so much more freedom and looseness then.
Well remember, there were only three channels!
You’re pretty honest about the role that nepotism played in your career, getting you in the door through your brother Garry. But you also talk about the idea of “giving someone a life” — paying it forward, giving someone new an opportunity to do with what they can. Do you feel like that sentiment still exists in Hollywood today?
No. [Laughs] Everyone needs a life right now!