Hector Elizondo Pens Tribute to Garry Marshall: "He Just Made Things Better"

hector Elizondo - Getty - H 2016
Getty Images

hector Elizondo - Getty - H 2016

The actor who played Barney in 'Pretty Woman' and starred opposite Anne Hathaway in 'The Princess Diaries' recalls his 35-year friendship with the late writer-director: "Garry didn’t say funny things — he said things funny."

He saw me before I saw him. I was a New York stage actor in the 1960s and 1970s — he saw me in Steambath on Broadway. We finally met in 1979, just before his first movie, Young Doctors in Love. We met on his basketball court. I tried to do a behind-the-back shot and ended up hitting him with the ball. He said, "You know, you’re a lousy basketball player, but you’re a pretty good actor — I think I have a part for you." That’s how I got cast in Young Doctors. That’s how we became friends.

A few years later, I read the original script for Pretty Woman and it was a very edgy thing, especially for Disney. Very dark. It was called 3000. I looked at it and he said, "So, Hector, waddya think?" I said, "I don’t know. This is pretty dark, man. This lady gets kicked to the street and she has tuberculosis. That’s not a Disney movie." He said, "Don’t worry! We’re gonna make it nice!" Then he asked me about my character, Barney Thompson. I said, "I don’t know this guy. He’s a guy you see nine million times. He’s just the guy at the hotel desk." He says, "Don’t worry! You’ll figure it out!" That’s how it went with him.

Garry didn’t say funny things — he said things funny. He could take the most prosaic line and he could fill it with innuendo or meaning. He was unique. He would walk into a cold room and it would become warmer. He would walk into a hot room and it’d become cooler. He just made things better. There are people like that.