Special Feature

Interview with Director Gary Marshall and actors John Corbett, Joan Cusack and Kate Hudson of “Raising Helen” (2004)

by Chris Monroe
Staff Writer

Copyright, Touchstone Pictures

Read our REVIEW of “Raising Helen”

In New York City, the director and most of the lead actors from Raising Helen sat down to discuss the movie, as well as topics related to it. These key people were director Gary Marshall, John Corbett, Joan Cusack and Kate Hudson, who discussed their experience with church and religion, as well as with family.

Actor John Corbett (Northern Exposure, My Big Fat Greek Wedding) also started off by sharing his personal beliefs and background.

“I’m not even Catholic anymore. I’m a born-again Christian now. I went to twelve years of Catholic school and never read the Bible. I read the Bible for the first time when I was, I don’t know. I was a born-again Christian. I accepted the Lord in ’86, so I was about twenty-five or twenty-six. That’s the first time I read the Bible. Weird. Weird to go to [Catholic] school for twelve years and never read the Bible.

You know the Catholic Church was just phenomenal to me. Even when I go now—I still go to midnight mass, just because my girl likes to go to the service. I lay there an hour later not having absorbed anything, except if the priest sort of speaks freely. And I’ve found very few of those priests who sort of speak freely, and just sort of talk.

That’s what I liked about the non-denominational church. You’d have a fellow up there, there wasn’t any format, he wasn’t wearing anything fancy, and he was just sort of interpreting the Bible. And I liked that. And that never happened in the Catholic Church. It was all this sort of pomp and circumstance that just sort of left me in a daze.”

Going on to discuss his role as Pastor Dan, Corbett explains that there were tons of overly religious idioms or spins on the dialogue that he begged Gary Marshall to take out. Corbett says:

“He [Marshall] basically let me take them all out. Every time I spoke [in the script], it was a religious overtone. He made me do a couple of them, which I didn’t want to do, but he let me take most of it out. It was just all “nail on the head.” Everything was a joke, some sort of religious joke.”

Speaking of lines Corbett dreaded, I inquired about the line where Pastor Dan calls himself a “sexy man of God”—since it was such an unusual line to hear.

“I hated that line, man. It just sort of came out, and I wanted it to be done. It’s just a weird thing. I hated it. But I saw it yesterday, and somehow it worked. The line is like, “You don’t think I’m sexy. But I’m sexy. I’m a sexy man of God, and I know it.” There was one more line, which was, “Too bad you don’t.” I got him to cut that. I said, ‘Man, don’t make me say all this’.”

Copyright, Touchstone Pictures
Director Gary Marshall

Gary Marshall’s philosophy when making a movie is to value the movie making process itself. He says,

“I am truly a believer in making the process a good time. Make it memorable. Have some fun. Shoot for high quality. Don’t get too crazy, and see what happens.”

Having been in the business for many many years (along with sister Penny), he certainly brought a lot to the table when working with this cast and crew.

When asked about the character of Pastor Dan (who plays the romantic lead), Marshall emphasized that that was one of the reasons he took the picture. He explains:

“I thought it was an interesting spin on the love story. We usually don’t do that. To be very honest, with some of the religious things going on in the news today with the Catholic Church, I thought somewhere there should be a positive statement that religion has a good place, and it has its good people.”

Marshall explains that they screened “Raising Helen” for some Lutheran believers and other religious people, and says he thinks they enjoyed it. He adds,

“We can’t compete with Mel Gibson, but we figured we’d do our part in making decent people.”

Discussing the decision to include a minister in a leading role, Marshall harkens back to his days working in television when clerical characters were typically not allowed to be in shows. He says:

“Traditionally in television, they wouldn’t let you do a show about a religious person unless they flew, like the flying nun. They always felt like the priest, the minister, would not be good, because the audience would perceive that nothing bad could happen to them. So you couldn’t do stories, because they wouldn’t believe something bad would happen. So that was true in the seventies and sixties. You didn’t do religious shows in comedy, in sit-coms. But now I think it’s changed, and I think it can be done. And it can be done, I think, with humor.

[In Raising Helen] people were more concerned about how these kids are going to survive. I think the tone that was in the seventies—of nothing happening to them [clergy]—worked for us in the sense that Kate Hudson with these three kids, being with at least a religious man, was solid enough these kids would be all right. It sort of built the case better than if she was running around with a bartender, or a band singer or something. This man would give us solidarity to that place.

Although Pastor Dan is not Helen’s only help, Marshall’s ideas hold true in the actual movie by having Pastor Dan as a constant, positive influence.

Copyright, Touchstone Pictures

“Raising Helen” is Joan Cusack’s second movie since she has begun raising her own children—one four years old and one nearly seven. Although Joan has enjoyed success in entertainment, she says:

“If my kids decided that they wanted to grow up and be actors, I’d really dissuade them, because it’s a tough life. It’s very unstable. If you’re working, you’re working for three months for fifteen-hour days. It’s not set up for family life—or any kind of life. Then you’re off forever. There’s no structure. Even if you’re a huge star, you can always fall. And there’s no stability. You have to just be very centered, strong. Try to come up with your own thing that you’re going to do [outside of acting]. Be a self-regulator kind of person.”

Joan says she loves working [in the industry] but agrees with her character, Jenny, who says, “Motherhood is the greatest job in the world.” This movie was the first “mom” role Cusack has had since she’s been a mother and explains some of the reasons she decided to do it:

“This [role] was fun, because it was a mom that wasn’t cool, but she said the right things and had her heart in the right place. I thought it would be fun, easy to do. You also want a part that’s not too challenging when you have kids, because you have to be there for them.”

Copyright, Touchstone Pictures

Kate Hudson first met Gary Marshall when he was directing her parents, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, in the eighties movie “Overboard.” Now married to a member of the rock band The Black Crows, Hudson recently gave birth to their first son, Ryder, after shooting this movie.

Although her role in “Raising Helen” involves being a mother to these children, she says she didn’t really learn anything from the experience about parenting.

I learn from my parents. They’re my biggest support system right now. I have such great parents. They’re my role models as a parent. I was lucky enough to watch them raise Wyatt, and I can only hope that when Ryder and the next kids come they like me as much as I like my mom.”

Hudson, who is now shooting her next movie, was asked what it was like going back to work after having the baby. She responded:

“It was great. I grew up in this [industry], so, I think, how lucky am I that I get to be a working mother and have my kids with me. That’s the way I look at it.”

Hudson does admit that she was personally surprised to find out her love interest was a clergyman.

“But when I found out it was going to be John Corbett, I was pretty happy about it. He’s a sexy man of God.”

Read our review of RAISING HELEN