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Rob Marshall, Director-Producer-Choreographer-Episode #299

Jun 11, 2024 | 0 comments

“I was working out the schedule for Into the Woods, and I sat Meryl [Streep] down. I said, “Meryl, I’m thinking that I’ll bring in the cast, we’ll work for about three weeks, and then we’ll have you come in, and then we’ll focus on your work,” because I was trying to kind of not make her have to sit around. And she said, “Are you kidding me? I want to be there from the very first moment. She goes, I’m playing the witch. I’m in everybody’s business. I need to be part of the whole process.” And I thought, okay, this is why she’s a great actor.”
~Rob Marshall

The great director, Rob Marshall, has made numerous films that have been honored with a total of 30 Academy Award nominations — winning 9 in all, including Best Picture for “Chicago,” which alone won a total of 6 of those Oscars. Also, for “Chicago,” Rob received the Directors Guild Award, and nominations for Best Director for the Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA awards. Additionally, he won Best Directorial Debut from the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics Online, as well as the American Choreography Award.

Most recently, Rob directed and produced the live-action feature, “The Little Mermaid” for Disney, starring Halle Bailey, Melissa McCarthy and Javier Bardem.

Rob’s other directorial achievements include multiple nominations for award-winning features like: “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Nine,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” which went on to gross over 1 billion dollars worldwide, “Into the Woods,” and “Mary Poppins Returns.”

Rob executive produced, directed, and choreographed the NBC TV event “Tony Bennett: An American Classic,” for which he won his second Directors Guild Award. He’s also won 3 Emmys for Direction, Choreography, and Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special. He directed and choreographed the Disney/ABC movie musical “Annie,” which received 12 Emmy nominations and won the prestigious Peabody Award. For choreographing Annie, Rob also received an Emmy and an American Choreography Award.

He’s received the Humanitas Prize for co-writing Mary Poppins Returns, and other awards from the Art Directors Guild, the Cinema Audio Society, the Costume Designers Guild, as well as the Annie Award, the Hamilton Award, and the Chita Rivera Award.

Rob’s extensive stage work includes the Broadway productions of “Cabaret,” “Little Me,” “Victor/Victoria,” “Damn Yankees,” “She Loves Me,” “Company,” and “Kiss of the Spiderwoman.” He’s been nominated six times for the Tony Award, and he’s a George Abbott Award winner.

For the record, Rob and I are both graduates of Taylor Allderdice High School here in Pittsburgh. Rob is also an alumni of Carnegie Mellon University’s top-rated School of Drama.

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Read the Podcast Transcript

Steve Cuden: On today’s StoryBeat…

Rob Marshall: Here’s a great Meryl Streep story I love so much. I was working out the schedule for Into the Woods, and I sat Meryl down. I said, Meryl, here’s what I’m thinking. I’m thinking that I’ll bring in the cast, we’ll work for about three weeks, and then we’ll have you come in, and then we’ll focus on your work. And because I was trying to kind of not make her have to sit around, and she said, okay, so wait, let me get this straight. So everybody’s there, the entire company except for me, and everybody’s getting to know each other. Everybody’s working on this piece. And then in she comes, that’s how she said it. She goes, are you kidding me? I want to be there from the very first moment. She goes, I’m playing the witch. I’m in everybody’s business. I need to be part of the whole process. And I thought, okay, this is why she’s a great actor.

Announcer: This is StoryBeat with Steve Cuden, a podcast for the creative mind. StoryBeat explores how masters of creativity develop and produce brilliant works that people everywhere love and admire. So join us as we discover how talented creators find success in the worlds of imagination and entertainment. Here now is your host, Steve Cuden.

Steve Cuden: Thanks for joining us on StoryBeat. We’re coming to you from the Steel City, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My guest today, Rob Marshall, has made numerous films that have been honored with a total of 30 Academy Award nominations, winning nine in all, including best picture for Chicago, which alone won a total of six of those oscars. Also for Chicago, Rob received the Directors Guild Award and nominations for best director for the Oscar, Golden Globe, and BAFTA awards. Additionally, he won best directorial debut from the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics online, as well as the American Choreography Award. Most recently, Rob directed and produced the live action feature the Little Mermaid for Disney, starring Halle Bailey, Melissa McCarthy, and Javier Bardem. Rob’s other directorial achievements include multiple nominations for award winning features like Memoirs of a Geisha, nine Pirates of the on Stranger tides, which went on to gross over a billion dollars worldwide. Into the woods and Mary Poppins returns. Rob executive produced, directed, and choreographed the NBC tv event Tony Bennett, an american classic for which he won his second director’s Guild Award. He’s also won three Emmys for direction, choreography, and outstanding variety, music or Comedy Special. He directed and choreographed the Disney ABC movie musical Annie, which received twelve Emmy nominations and won the prestigious Peabody Award for choreographing Annie. Rob also received an Emmy and an American Choreography award. He’s received the Humanitas Prize for co writing Mary Poppins Returns, and other awards from the Art Directors Guild, the Cinema Audio Society, the Costume Designers Guild, as well as the Annie Award, the Hamilton Award, and the Cheetah Rivera Award. Rob’s extensive stage work includes the Broadway productions of Cabaret, little me, Victor, Victoria, damn Yankees, she loves me, company, and Kiss of the Spider Woman. He’s been nominated six times for the Tony award, and he’s a George Abbott award winner. For the record, Rob and I are both graduates of Taylor Alderdyce High School here in Pittsburgh. Rob is also an alumni of Carnegie Mellon University’s top rated school of drama. So for all those reasons and many more, I’m deeply honored to have the extraordinarily multitalented and highly influential director and producer, Rob Marshall join me today.

How old were you when you first started paying attention to theater and film

Rob, welcome to StoryBeat.

Rob Marshall: Oh, my gosh, Steve. That’s so exhausting. How’d you get.

Steve Cuden: It’s like, this is your life.

Rob Marshall: Oh, it really is. I thought, wait, did that all happen?

Steve Cuden: Apparently, it did. So let’s go back in time a little bit. How old were you when you first started paying attention to theater and film and acting and performing?

Rob Marshall: Wow. Well, I was so lucky, because I have great parents that, took me and my sisters and exposed us to theater at a very young age. I mean, I think I was seeing Shakespeare when I was five or six, you know, and musicals early on, too. Touring productions, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and opera and ballet and symphony. Honestly, growing up in Pittsburgh, I mean, it was so lucky to live in that amazing town because of everything that was there to, for me to see and to take in. And I have to say that I feel like immediately I knew what I wanted to do. I didn’t really know that directing and choreographing was sort of in my world early on, but I did feel that this was a world I wanted to.

Steve Cuden: Be a part of on stage.

Rob Marshall: On stage, I never thought about film. Television wasn’t fully aware of that. But I really. I mean, when I was growing up, variety shows were so big. Musicals were sort of a big deal in our house, for sure. And so I knew that I was drawn to that genre.

Steve Cuden: And did you get training early on?

Rob Marshall: You know, we went to a great school called Falk School, which is part of the University of Pittsburgh. It’s a lab school, and it’s still there. Amazing school. And it was a very creative school. It encouraged creativity in so many ways. I was sort of surrounded by that, you know, by arts and, you know, not only sort of just singing, but also, you know, painting and those kind of arts. And it was a perfect place for myself to go. And my sister, we felt, you know, you know, it was a place that was an experimental kind of school in the sixties and early seventies. So there was not a lot of judgment, and it was really about inspiring you to sort of let you be yourself and, let you create. And so that was, I think I would say that was the first place that I found myself being able to express myself as an artist, even as a young kid.

Steve Cuden: Did it continue in that way when you got to Allderdice?

Rob Marshall: You know what I think what happened to me just sort of in between Falk school and Allderdice was the Pittsburgh civic art opera. My sisters and I, all three of us, auditioned for the Sound of Music. We had no lessons, as you asked before. We had none of that. But we had done school plays and things like that. We didn’t have any resume pictures or anything like that. And I remember going to the audition, the three of us, you know, looking around with people with, like, eight by tens and, you know, black and white glossies and resumes. We had none of that. You know, we took ourselves in the backyard with, like, little handwritten resumes. I mean, it was pathetic, but anyway. But what was great was all three of us got the show. I have to credit that to this amazing director named Milton Lyon, who was the director and also the musical director of these shows that season. And I think he wanted real kids, you know, kind of natural kids. So all three of us, that was our launch into this sort of professional theater. I mean, real professional theater.

Steve Cuden: So what fundamentals did they teach you that perhaps have stayed with you all these years?

Rob Marshall: Oh, goodness. The seriousness behind the work, you know, I mean, a lot of people don’t understand that. You know, the art is not just sort of like fun and games. You know, it’s a real craft. And we saw that around us. You know, all the. The ensemble people were from either Carnegie Mellon or Point park or University of Pittsburgh, you know, really local, great talent. But also, you know, seeing these wonderful actors from New York who were around us, we saw it. We saw the seriousness behind the work, as well as the joy, of course, of it. But it was like, well, this is the real thing. And I have to say, I could not have been launched in a professional way, in a more perfect way, because it was so fulfilling to be with these people. And just watching and learning mostly. I mean, I felt that mostly watching other shows, like, we were watching rehearsals for west side Story or the music man and watching the dancers specifically. For memes, it was mind blowing. That was life changing as well.

Steve Cuden: You were early on inspired by the dancing part of that world. Yes.

Rob Marshall: Yeah, that was. I, mean, there was nothing like that. I mean, what room do you want to be in? Do you want to be in the room where they’re doing a scene, or do you want to be in a room where they’re actually dancing? I mean, it was so thrilling. And, of course, watching, as an example, west side Story, which is, you know, and my dear friend Lenore Nemetz played Anita in that.

Steve Cuden: Indeed.

Rob Marshall: And watching how that came together, we were so lucky to sneak in and sit in the corner and watch and observe. And, I mean, I never thought I could do that and be a dancer, which I ended up being a dancer and a choreographer and all of that. But it was just. It was thrilling.

Steve Cuden: And you bring up the great Lenora Nemet. She has been a guest on this show, too. And what a major talent to come out of this town, for sure.

Rob Marshall: Oh, my gosh. You know, the thing about Lenora is that she was my inspiration, no question. Seeing her in productions at the Playhouse and Clo, you know, watching her grow as a performer. I mean, we saw her at the Oddsheet Playhouse in shows like a Once Upon a Mattress, teams at sea. I mean, you know, that talent was beyond belief, and she was only in her twenties. And then, of course, went off to do Chicago and understudied Gwen Vernon Chi Rivera, and, you know, and that was our connection to New York City, and we went and saw her there, so. And, you know, just that talent and who she is. And she was so. She was like a sister to us, even as we were younger. She was, part of the family in a way. She really inspired me to do what I do and, you know, what and does to this day.

Steve Cuden: It’s very interesting that she went on and did Chicago, and she understudied and went on, I think, on the same day for both Cheetah Rivera and Gwen Verdon.

Rob Marshall: Yes, that’s that famous story. She did both roles in one day, which is insane, but insane. It shows the sort of the breadth of her talent, the range of her talent. You know, she can do anything. And we saw her the opening night. She took over for Cheetah in the role of Velma. We were there that night, and that’s the first time I met Cheetah Rivera. You know, we were. I don’t know. I was probably 15, you know?

Steve Cuden: And isn’t it amazing or weird in life that things happen where you then go on and make Chicago as a movie? I think that’s amazing.

Rob Marshall: No, it’s just a real thing. I mean, it was the first Broadway stage I ever stood on. Lenore took us backstage, and we stood on the stage and looked out, and that was the first time I was ever in the theater like that. And from that perspective, and. And, I mean, if I knew then, you know, at that moment, like, you’ll be making the film of this, you know, later in your life, it just wouldn’t make sense. I wouldn’t have believed you for half a second, you know?

Steve Cuden: Did it supercharge your desire to do more of it?

Rob Marshall: Absolutely. I mean, once you’re. Once you have the bug and you’re bitten like that, you know, it’s in your blood, then, you know. And the next season, I remember I went back to play Louis in, the king and I, and, a son. And so that was a whole other experience to play that role. And it was just. It just sent me into this world. I knew this is where I felt at home.

Steve Cuden: How long did you work at things, including at CMU, before you thought to yourself, you know what? I not only love this, but I’m actually good at it? When did that occur to you that this is something you could do?

Rob Marshall: You know, it’s funny. I did a show. It’s funny you asked that, because I haven’t really thought about that. It’s a great question. I did a show out at a club called Ben Gross’s Pittsburgh. The great Tom Brockett put together this show. I was probably 16 or 17, and there were five of us in the show. It was called places, please. I was in that show. I had a few solos and things like that in it. And I remember there was an article that came out, I guess it was the review from the Pittsburgh press, and it said, and the headline, even before you open up, like, on the front of the arts page, said, will he be the next Gene Kelly? Oh, wow. And who was from Pittsburgh as well?

Steve Cuden: Yes, indeed.

Rob Marshall: So I have to say, that moment, I thought, oh, wait, wait. I never believed it fully, but I thought, wow. Oh, I see. maybe I have some talent in a way that I thought was special just because, you know, when someone gives you encouragement at that age, it’s life changing, really.

Steve Cuden: So strangely that you bring up Don Brockett in 1975, the year before the bicentennial, I performed during the whole summer of 75 in a Don Brockett show called the Bicentennial Wagon train.

Rob Marshall: Oh, my gosh.

Steve Cuden: We performed at, Kennywood park. We performed all over Pittsburgh. Oh, yeah.

Rob Marshall: I probably saw it. I probably saw you on stage. I’m sure I did.

Steve Cuden: Well, I was in it.

Rob Marshall: That’s incredible.

Steve Cuden: So am I correct that you eventually stopped dancing because you had a herniated disc, is that right?

Rob Marshall: Yes. So I had a sort of a Broadway career coming out of school. I went into the production of Zorba. It was my first Broadway show. I did a chorus line with Michael Bennett, did, a show called The Rink with Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli and Lenora. She stood by for Liza, did, the mystery of Edwin Drood. I did cats. But anyway, when I was in cats, it was a very difficult show. And because I was one of the first, actually was the first, quote unquote, like, real dancer, dancer to play this part I was playing, which is called Monk struck, which is like the narrator role. Gillian Lin came back, the choreographer, and re choreographed the show for me and gave me much harder things to do. So I had a really difficult show. And I have to say that a couple months into the show, I was in great pain. It was, to dance like a cat is really not human, and so it’s really brutal on your body, especially what I was doing. And so I herniated a disc in my lower back and left the show and then chose. I had a choice between an operation and bed rest. And I decided to rest it because I was only 27. And I thought, I’m just going to rest and see if I can heal this, which I did. But then when I went back, the first thing, someone asked me to choreograph a production down in Florida. I never really thought about that. I mean, I had been the assistant choreographer and dance captain of a lot of these shows and television shows as well. And someone said, would you like to choreograph this? And I thought, oh, that would be really great. What a great way to go back in without having to perform eight times a week. And it literally changed everything for me because I felt immediately at home choreographing. I felt, like, right in where I should be. And it’s something I had thought about, but I didn’t think I would be doing it in my 20. I thought I’d be doing it in my forties when I couldn’t dance anymore. And, it just started earlier than I thought. But it kept rolling. And then I just started choreographing and choreographing everywhere.

Steve Cuden: So it turns out an injury actually turned into a whole other career.

Rob Marshall: You know, it’s funny how that works that way. It’s like you come up against a brick wall, and you can either just keep hitting the brick wall, or you can, you know, or the stream can take you around the brick wall and take you on another path. And I think that’s such an important life lesson for me and for others. And when I speak to people, I feel like you have to listen to the rhythm of life, you know, and how life is taking you, because there’s a reason, like, there’s a natural reason, a flow, you have to let it go. And it was, it was naturally taking me there, and I felt, it felt right to me.

Steve Cuden: Well, not every choreographer winds up being a director, though, in a way they are, but they don’t wind up with that title all that often. Some do, but not that often. And you clearly must have learned a lot in your time in observing other directors and choreographers, how they do what they do, or you wouldn’t have even thought about doing it. I assume that’s true.

Rob Marshall: I mean, I have to say, even from back at Oddshare Playhouse, I mean, Tom Thomas, who ran that, saw something in me, and me to be a stage manager of this or that or, you know, I, always was asked to assist or be part of the creative team in some way. And so, you know, it happened in a very organic way. Like, I never, I didn’t skip a step. You know, it wasn’t like I jumped. You know, I was choreographing for a while, and then someone said, would you like to direct? You know what it was? It was at Clo. the director had to pull out of a show that I was choreographing with him. It was Camelot, with Stacey Keach and Ben Osland, and Charlie Gray, who was running Clo at the time, said to me, do you think you could direct and choreograph this? And I said, I think I could. And so that was the first time I directed in a professional way. I, loved it, because you’re absolutely right. I had watched so many great directors at that point, from the shows I was into, the shows I was working on as a choreographer. I learned what to do, and I learned what not to do.

Steve Cuden: Well, it’s always seemed to me that there’s not a huge leap from someone who knows how to stage a dance number to someone who knows how to stage a scene. And so that’s why you see and you’ve done it yourself, obviously, a lot where you’re both the director and the choreographer.

Rob Marshall: Well, having served in both roles, can I tell you right now, choreography is much harder, and it really is a form of directing because it just is. Especially on a musical, you are doing the bulk of the work without question. Ask any choreographer. They’re creating the numbers. They’re working the transitions into the scenes. The scenes are short because they were musical, and then you’re back into the number. So there’s been. I mean, I have to say, a lot of. There’s not a lot of focus on that. But to me, like, for instance, when the choreography award at the Tonys, for example, is given, you know, in the pre show as opposed to on in the real, it doesn’t make sense at all because they are the ones. We are the ones who are actually creating the musical, no question. And so it was a very natural progression for me to move from choreography into directing because it was just. It was an extension of what I was already doing.

Steve Cuden: Mm For sure. Everything that I’ve seen that you’ve done, and I think the only movie of yours I haven’t seen is memoirs of a geisha, but I’ve seen everything else.

Rob Marshall: Wow.

Steve Cuden: and so it’s interesting to me that even in Pirates of the Caribbean, which is not a musical, clearly it still has a musical rhythm and dynamic to it.

Rob Marshall: Oh, thank you, Steve.

Steve Cuden: That’s just in your bones, isn’t it?

Rob Marshall: Well, you know, it’s funny you say, in my bones. I remember Arthur Lawrence, the writer, and director, said to me once, it’s either in your bones or it’s not. And I do feel it’s in my bones. And when I started pirates, I think people were said, oh, my gosh, can you do something of that scale? Can you. Is it $250 million budget? Can you do these big set pieces, these massive, stunt sequences and action sequences? And honestly, I said, it feels like I’m doing a musical because instead of a musical number, you’re doing a big action sequence. But it has to be choreographed exactly the same way with all the beats and every piece of it put together. And so it felt. It didn’t feel foreign at all to me. I mean, I felt when I was doing a massive, like, fight sequence, it felt like I was doing a big production number. It felt like, you know, I know how to do this. I mean, you know, on paper, it doesn’t look like that, but it certainly was for me.

Steve Cuden: Every single one of those sequences in that particular movie, in Pirates of the Caribbean, every single sequence is a dance. It’s all timing and rhythm. And what happens this happens to that happens to this. It’s all a dance.

Rob Marshall: I mean, I think you’re absolutely right. I literally said to Johnny Depp, because he’s so. He moved so beautifully, and I said, johnny, I just have to tell you, you are a dancer. How you work, how you move, how, you know, physically, how you work through, an action sequence, you know, the timing of that. I said, you are 100%. No, I’m not. I said, you are 100%. I mean, great action actors. People who do action are, without question, dancers as well.

Steve Cuden: So I have to ask you, you did lots of theater, and you were both choreographer and a director in the theater. How did you suddenly make this leap into tv and film, which is the same thing, sort of with a different added attraction? The camera.

Rob Marshall: The camera. Well, it was, once again, a very organic thing. I mean, I was asked by director, of television if I. And I had just finished doing three shows on Broadway as a choreographer. Just this fight woman, and she loves me. In damn Yankees, they came, like, right on the heels of each other. Boom, boom, boom. I had three shows running on Broadway at the same time. And this wonderful director named Terry Hughes, who I just adored, he said, would you ever consider doing television? I’m doing an original musical with Jerry Herman for Angela Lansbury. I mean, everything he was saying was like, are you kidding me? I was called misses m Santa Claus. It was on CB’s. It was a holiday special, but it was an original musical, an original musical written for her. And that was incredible, that experience, because Terry was so generous. He really let me try things and learn things. And he let me edit my musical m numbers that I had choreographed. He let me edit them, which I couldn’t believe that a director would do that.

Steve Cuden: Wow.

Rob Marshall: So I learned about editing there. I learned about cutting. I learned, you know, I’ll never forget I was working on a sequence. And one of the hardest things in theater as a choreographer is, are the transitions. How do you move from this into the next thing? And then I realized as I was filming or prepping to film, that all you need to do is cut.

Rob Marshall: Oh, my God, I can cut and I’m somewhere else. It was so freeing. And another thing happened to me, Steve dirt, while I was working on that, that I realized was that when I pictured a number musical number on stage. I always saw it as a movie first, and then I would translate it to the stage, to a proscenium stage. I always saw it as a film. That’s how I would open, up my mind to what the possibilities of what a number could be.

Steve Cuden: So then the leap to being a film director was already there for you.

Rob Marshall: I didn’t realize that until I said, why does this feel so comfortable? And the first time I directed on film was a musical, musical, Annie, for television. And I was so nervous. The first day of, film, we were filming at Universal Studios, right next to the Jurassic park ride. Like, literally, like, right by the universal studios, all, you know, park where they have all the rides. And in the Jurassic park, music. John Bleeds music was playing as I was getting out of my car, walking to the soundstage, and I thought, oh, my. It was like, Bob. I can’t remember the exact, but it was like that big Bo. And I thought, oh, I’m going to pass out. But then I walked on stage. I remember the first time I actually sat in the director’s chair. To start, I didn’t say the word action. I couldn’t say, it wouldn’t come out of my mouth. It wouldn’t come out of my mouth, Steve, because I felt, it felt cliche, action. You know, just. So I said, okay, and anytime you want to go, like, I don’t even know what I said, but I didn’t say, action.

Steve Cuden: Well, you can always do what Clint Eastwood does, which is just to say, whenever you’re ready.

Rob Marshall: Yeah, that’s good. That’s probably exactly what I said. By the end of that one day, I felt very at home. And one of the reasons was I felt like I was ready in a way. Liza Minnelli once said this wonderful thing to me when I was working with her on the rink. I was 23 years old. She gave me this piece of advice, and I’ve never forgotten it. She said to me, be ready when the luck comes. Be ready when the luck comes. I mean, I didn’t quite understand it then, but now, of course, I understand it completely. The luck comes rarely. Like, you know, that moment where something happens and you get this, or something falls in your, in your lap, and, but you have to produce. You have to be ready, you know? And so that’s what happened for me, in a way, with Annie. It happened, actually, with Chicago, too, I felt when on my first feature film, I wasn’t a, young un. I was in my late thirties. You know, I was someone who’d been around and been in a lot of shows and watched a lot and learned a lot, and I felt ready. And so then I, you know, I learned to say action, cut, and not have a problem with it.

Steve Cuden: So you actually were fortunate that you did a tv movie that was a bit of, delight, not some real, deep, intellectual piece. And so you could have fun with it 100%.

Rob Marshall: I mean, it was a perfect transition for me. It felt like a hybrid between theater and film. I rehearsed it like. Like I was doing a show, a theater piece. That’s what happens when you do musicals. You have to, you know, you have to rehearse the dances, you have to rehearse the numbers. And I had actually, I have to say I had an incredible cast, all from the theater. So Victor Garber, Audra McDonald, Kristen Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Kathy Bates. I had people from the theater who spoke my language. I felt very comfortable in that setting. even though we were filming and I was learning about camera, I remember when I was. Once I was doing, I was working on misses Santa Claus, the first time I ever did on film. And I remember I was standing looking like. Like literally had my hands like I was looking through like a telescope. And. And I remember the one of the grips hit me and said, you put your hands like this. Like, like literally you. So I was like, oh, I see. Oh, it’s a square. It’s not. It’s not a circle. And what am I thinking? You know, I didn’t know what I learned.

Steve Cuden: Well, you know, everyone starts off in life not knowing how to direct a movie.

Rob Marshall: Yeah, no, that’s true. And it wasn’t in, you know, I wasn’t around movies. I wasn’t around. I was an extra in a George Romero film in college, you know. But I, We did not. Knew nothing about film or television.

Steve Cuden: But you understood dance, that’s for sure. And you understood staging, and you understood picture and composition and so on.

Tell me, because I’ve never understood it. And I would love to hear you explain. How do you think about dance or choreography as a means to moving the story forward?

Rob Marshall: Oh, goodness. Well, you know, what’s interesting is I don’t think a lot of people realize that choreographers are authors because, you know, as a director, you get a script that you interpret and even a, song that has lyrics and music, you interpret. But as a choreographer, you really have nothing. I mean, you have music, but you still actually have to create music. So you have to write basically a scenario like, what’s the story that’s going to bridge this from here to here? And I honestly know for a fact that I could, if someone said, just choreograph a number, musical number, I could never do. Like, it would have to have a story, it would have to have characters. It would have to have something that illuminates, you know, something that’s happening to some specific character or tells a story. And if there isn’t one, that I create one, because that’s the only thing I know how to do. I know how to, you know, tell a story, as you just said, through movement, you know, and if you don’t do that, then it doesn’t work. Then it’s like a variety show of some kind. You know, this is sort of like a, you know, a dance for no reason. It has to be integral. And I learned this from the people that I worked with, you know, especially Graziella Danielle, who taught me so much about integrating m the movement into the piece so that it’s inextricably bound, you know, it’s part of the story, and if you take it out, you lose the story.

Steve Cuden: And it has to have just like every other part of the story, it has to have a beginning, middle, and end, and there has to be some intention through it. And it has all the same seven plot points, if you want to call it that, of any good story.

Rob Marshall: Absolutely. I was. I remember I was doing, Pittsburgh public Theater. I was doing a show called Eleanor, about Eleanor Roosevelt, that Mel Shapiro, the great director, directed. And I choreographed. And I remember I had done this big number. It was called the new century walk or something like that. It was about. It was a period piece, and I was very excited about the dance I’d created. And he said to me, we have to put Eleanor into this. How does she see this dance? How is she part of it? She doesn’t fit in. My first inclination was, oh, wait, we’re going to take away from my dance the dance, you know, the show. And I was like, no, no, no. That’s the whole point. It’s the story in the dance that makes the dance. So now you see this kind of all these very wealthy people and very elegant people doing this dance, and she doesn’t fit in. That’s what makes the piece work. But Mel taught me that, you know, so I learned from all the great teachers around me how to take dance, how to tell story through it. And of course, that’s the only way to do it.

Steve Cuden: Well, one of the hallmarks in your movies, for sure, especially the musicals, is that the dance numbers, they have a real intensity to them, but yet you can tell everything that’s happening and there’s a story being told within them, even though there’s a lot of cross cutting and so on. So the big difference and what I’m really curious about is in the theater, the audience is static and the stage doesn’t move and the people on it move. But in movies, you have one more dancer, and that is going back to what I said earlier, the camera. That’s another part of it. How did you learn to choreograph the camera into the dance?

Rob Marshall: Well, it’s a luxury because then you can have people look at what you want them to look at. You know, on stage, they can look anywhere they want. You can try everything you can with lighting to pinpoint a moment, but you can’t highlight a finger, an eye, you know, a shoulder. You can’t. You can’t do that. You know, you try, but you can’t. So the great thing about the control of working as a director on film, a choreographer on film, is that you have those tools to tell the audience exactly where you want them to look and what you want to see. And so in a way, it’s much easier. I find it much easier. And, you know, and the movement of the camera always felt very natural to me because of choreographing, anyway, is about movement. But like I said, when when I started on film, it felt so much easier. in a way, for me, if I wanted to make a point of something, you push in on something. Or if you wanted to, you know, if you wanted, like to see a big, grand moment, you know, you cut back wide and you see the full thing. You know, you’re the great audience member. That’s who you are. You, know, you can tell exactly where you want each person in the audience to look. It’s great.

Steve Cuden: Well, everybody that works on movies knows that the director is taking you to exactly where he or she wants you to look. that’s what you’re talking about. But do you also then think of the camera as another kind of performer in that movement?

Rob Marshall: In a way. I mean, in a way, I almost feel like they’re more the audience, you know what I mean? As opposed to a performer. I feel like they are definitely integral to the whole thing. But what you’re doing is you are sort of working your way through the piece in telling the story. You have the control. I mean, filming is so interesting because it’s you know, you spend the whole day on maybe about a minute and a half, two minutes of the film, and you have pieces, and during that day, all these different setups and things. So what you have at the end is like a mosaic. You have all these pieces of a mosaic, all these little shards, and you have to put them together into a whole. That’s the hardest thing of all, is actually putting it together and letting it, you know, because you have all these little bits and pieces. But I like the idea of perfecting something just small and then, you know, then working on sort of the big picture, you know? I mean, I have to say, Nora Ephron, who was a dear friend, miss m her so much, she once said something that I thought was so profound. She said, don’t you wish you could see your own movie? What she meant by that was, it’s very hard when you’ve worked on something, to step back the way. I could watch, you know, just say, a movie you directed. I could watch that movie and say, oh, this, this, that, this? Because I’m just looking at it, as an observer. When you’re in so inside something, it’s very hard to step back and see the film, you know, well, and you.

Steve Cuden: Can see where all the seams are. You’ve constructed it so you know, where all the pieces go together.

Rob Marshall: Yeah, it’s hard to. It’s hard to get that objectivity. That’s the thing you do. You get. You have the best chance of that with an audience because you’re starting to sort of see it through their eyes and ears, you know, and you can hear where they’re laughing or they’re, you know, where they’re rustling, where they’re bored. You can start. You can feel that. And so that is one chance you have to really start seeing it from another perspective, besides your inside perspective, you know?

Steve Cuden: And one of the things that I notice about all of your movies is they are visually beautiful. And so I assume that a lot of that is because you have worked with a great cinematographer. That’s part of it.

Rob Marshall: I mean, I have to say, I hit the jackpot on my first film with the greatest team of people and, designers and creatives. Dion Beebe, my cinematographer, John Meyer, my production designer, Colling Atwood, my costume designer. You know, I’ve worked with them now over the course of 20 years. In fact, as we were working on Little Mermaid together, the three of us, we sort of celebrated our 20 years together. I mean, there have been times, there are movies. Dion Beebe wasn’t available to do Pirates of the Caribbean. So I worked with the great victorious Welsky, and so it hasn’t always worked out that we all could be together. I’ve always had one or two of my team with me, but we have a real shorthand. We have worked together for so many years. and they are supreme artists. You know, the goal of a director is, can they see what you see in your head? And to me, they surpass what I see in my head.

Steve Cuden: Isn’t that grand?

Rob Marshall: It’s incredible.

Steve Cuden: That’s the way it is when you write scripts, because I’ve written a whole bunch of scripts, and you have it in your head one way, and then the actors get their hands on it, and suddenly it’s a whole other thing.

Rob Marshall: Other thing comes to life in a different way. And, you know, and the people that are smart but know how to collaborate, let that happen. The people that aren’t try and hold on and push it so hard in a direction without letting it breathe and letting it grow, because I’d be so stupid if I thought that I’m the one who has all the answers and has all the ideas. it’s just not how it works for me, the joy of working on these pieces is to see the input from all these other people. And so when I have meetings on film, and I know this is rare for a lot of filmmakers, but I. Everybody’s in the room, so I’m doing work on. We’re discussing costumes, and I have production designer, and I have the cinematographer there, I have the editor there, my great editor, Wyatt Smith. I have everybody in the room with me to work out the sequence because it’s all integrated, and I want to hear everybody’s point of view. Now, I have the final say, but to me, the best idea in the room win.

Steve Cuden: Do you start that process before you’ve worked it through with the scriptwriter?

Rob Marshall: no, I start with the script. And, John DeLuca and myself, my partner, John DeLuca, my husband, and also my wonderful producing partner.

Steve Cuden: Indeed, indeed.

Rob Marshall: John and I work with the writer very intensely for a long time until we feel that there’s something there to be seen. Then we take it to the studio. Studio has their notes. You have to listen because a lot of their notes, you know, aren’t good, but a lot of them are good. So you have to hear what people are saying and let that in. That’s important. You’re all on the same team. You all want a good film. That’s really important to remember a lot of people forget that, think they’re going up against the studio, you know, and it’s not that they want it a good one, too. And then once it’s in a good enough place, you know, then I start sharing it with the people that are working on it. And then it comes to life in a completely different way. And there’ll be just something that will be said, something offhand, something little that’s just like, whoa. It’s like sort of a eureka moment if you’re listening, if you’re paying attention.

Steve Cuden: And that’s true for all of note giving and taking, isn’t it?

Rob Marshall: I think it’s really important. I mean, people that are defensive immediately, it’s just, it’s not the right way to go. I mean, first of all, people just want to be heard, number one. So just let them speak and say what they want to say. You know, ultimately, at the end of the day that you’re not, you’re not going to do something that doesn’t work. But if there is a glimmer of something, there might be, might be a terrible note. But in the middle of that note, there’s one little something that might be good. So I try, I mean, it’s hard. Listen, we all are human beings, but I try desperately to not feel defensive when I’m hearing something. Stay open as much as I. John helps me with that. John says, just stay open. You never know. The thing I love about John is he’ll change anything on the like, oh, let’s just throw that all away. And I’m like, whoa, you know? But, but I do like the idea of being as open as you can. I think it makes your, you better. And I also think then if you really feel strongly about something, then that will come out, you know, what you feel strongly about will make you actually really sort of push for it and say, this is what I want. And then you become stronger about your point of view. So it’s all good. It all leads to the right place.

Steve Cuden: I’m so happy to hear you say that because for years I’ve taught students that when you go to get notes from whoever, a studio, a network, whatever, you’re going to probably hear some things that you disagree with. You’re going to think to yourself, they didn’t read what I wrote. You’re going to think all these things, these people are fools or whatever you’re going to think, but you don’t know if something will trigger some other thought for you.

Rob Marshall: Yeah, I mean, I would say, you know, there are some executives out there who don’t know what they’re talking about, they’re trying to justify their job or whatever, you know, and so they’re just saying anything or whatever, and you have to just be smart about that. What you can’t do, though, is leave them out of the process, because they are actually the people that are letting you do this piece. Right? So you have to. Okay, well, that’s how this is working, so let it come to you. What sticks will stick. What doesn’t will fall off. don’t worry. Don’t think about the moment. Don’t feel like you are being abused in some way. Just let it happen. And then know that you will stick to what you really feel deeply, but also might learn something, too.

Steve Cuden: So I’ve got to ask you about all these incredible actors you’ve worked with over time. How important is casting?

Rob Marshall: Well, I’ve said before that it’s everything, and in a way, it is, you know, because without people to bring it to life, there’s no. There’s nothing. And, you know, there are movies that I’ve done that if I didn’t have. I’ll just say, as an example, Emily Blunt playing Mary Poppins, as an example, there’d be no film, because, you know, I couldn’t actually think of someone else who could play that role. And I knew that if she didn’t want to do it, I wouldn’t have done it, and John and I would have just not done it. It’s everything, you know? And I also adore actors, you see, having been one, I understand how hard it is. I understand the moment you say, cut, you need to say something about the feedback that you. I mean, the worst feeling. Can you imagine being on the other side of the camera? And they say, cut, cut. That’s it. That’s it. Okay. And there’s no communication talking. They’re talking about the technical part of it, and they’re left out in the dark, and they feel, oh, my God, I’m terrible. I don’t feel valued. They start to doubt themselves, all those things. It’s so important that you communicate to actors. It’s so important because you’re creating a very.

For me, one of the goals, I mean, one of the most important things about being a director is creating a safe space where they feel that they aren’t judged so that they can really try anything. And, because I’ve worked with a lot of actors that are new to musicals, you know, Renee Zellweger, Richard gere, Emily blunt, you know, meryl Streep. I mean, Kathy Bates. I mean, there’s a. The list of people, Chris pine. I mean, it just goes on and on. People that are sort of new to the musical genre, they, need to feel protected. Protected enough they can actually be bad before they get good. Do you know what I mean? Really just throw it out there because that’s the only way you’re going to actually move forward and get better. So that’s important to me to really protect casts. I adore actors, and I love my experience with them. Reason to do movies for me. So, yes, cas is means the world.

Steve Cuden: Well, classically, directors are known to be psychologists.

Rob Marshall: 100%.

Steve Cuden: What do you do? Do you figure out early on what a specific actor needs and then work that?

Rob Marshall: Well for me, I know as an actor, positive reinforcement for me worked. So there, I start there, and I would say 99% of actors, that’s what they want. They want positive reinforcement, you know, that’s great. Maybe change this, but give them positive so they feel like, not so exposed. That’s really important to me.

Steve Cuden: Has it happened for you where an actor was just wildly off?

Rob Marshall: Well, I’ll tell you an interesting story. Once with Renee Zellweger on Chicago, we were in the middle of rehearsing, and she stopped and said, this is terrible. I’m terrible. She, said, why don’t you just fire me? You know, I can’t really sing and I can’t really dance. And I said, okay, let’s stop right there. Let me explain to you something. The reason you were hired was because you’re playing the role of Roxy Hart. Roxy Hart is someone who is a wannabe. She wants to be singer. She wants to be a dancer. All those rough edges that you have are the character Roxy is singing and dancing. It’s so important. If you were just a great singer, great dancer, you know, who cares? What’s so beautiful about what you’re doing is that it’s the character singing the character. I said, bring all that to it. That’s what this is. This isn’t a talent show. This is a movie. You’re playing a role. And that, I love all of those rough edges. That’s the best part. I said, do you understand? And it was like a eureka moment for her. She was like, oh, oh, I get it. It’s not Renee dancing and singing, you know, in a Vegas show or something. It’s Roxy Hart in this movie, in this story, expressing herself through dance and voice. It changed everything. But I think it’s important factors to.

Steve Cuden: Know that I think that, you just convinced me as to why it won the Oscar.

Rob Marshall: I mean, that was the most shocking thing ever. The whole ride of that. I had no idea we were. That I didn’t think anybody even see the film. So the whole, that whole, all of that was such a honest to God, complete and total shock. I will say that when I started working on that film, I really wanted to make sure that we were telling a story. A lot of people saw it as kind of like, a variety show. And for me, there was a real story in there about Roxy, for sure. Yeah. And, of course, Velma, too, and Billy. But it was. It’s really, you know, and that’s why when I started to work on this with John DeLuca and with Bill Connan, who wrote it with me, we really sort of found our way in.

Steve Cuden: Did you think it was not there in the Broadway show that what you did, what made it more complete and more understandable?

Rob Marshall: I think so. Because on film you can do that, you know, it’s called Chicago, a musical, vaudeville. You know, Bob Fosse is a genius. His production was astonishing and gorgeous, and it was, very much a vaudeville told through vaudeville in film, which is much more realistic. The only way I could see to do it was to create a story and then use sort of fantasy to tell the musical portion of it. And that had to live in two different worlds, the real story of these women. And then, of course, you know, the fantasies, musical fantasies that took place in Roxy’s head. That’s how I saw it working. And that’s something you can do on film that just wouldn’t work on stage, you know? And on stage, you’re already, you know, on stage, you’re in a, proscenium. You’re in a fake environment anyway. False environment. So if somebody can open their mouth to sing and it feels fine on film, it’s a very different story. If you start to sing, you better have earned it, or you better. There better be some strong conceptual plan behind it so it feels organic. Otherwise, it’s that horrible feeling. And you know what I mean, Steve, when someone starts to sing in a movie and you’re like, oh, this, you feel embarrassed for them, you know? And so it’s really important that it feels like, natural, completely organic coming from the scene into the song.

Steve Cuden: Well, for sure they did something right in the revival, because it’s almost at 30 years on Broadway, it’s incredible.

Rob Marshall: I will say something not to fully pack myself on the back or a movie on the back. But the producers, who I know well, Breanna, Barry Weissler, said the show was just about to close when our movie came out.

Steve Cuden: Wow.

Rob Marshall: And our movie gave it a whole new life.

Steve Cuden: Oh, indeed. Then.

Rob Marshall: And they beautifully said that to me many times over the years. And so that’s been a lovely feeling, you know, to keep a show like that, a brilliant show, written by the genius of John Kander and Fred Evan, Bob Fosse, you know, have that show still playing for audiences literally today.

Steve Cuden: Well, there’s no question that it’s still a very popular attraction on Broadway. No question it is.

I want to go back to the actors for half a second, which is you’ve clearly worked with some just massively popular, well known, Oscar winning actors. You’ve even directed one or two an Oscar. So when you work with a Meryl Streep or with a Daniel Day Lewis or with a Nicole Kidman, do you work with them differently than you do someone who is not famous in the show?

Rob Marshall: Not at all. Not at all. The gorgeous thing about great actors and working with them is that they’re, you know, everybody when they start starts from zero, like, we’re all starting together. And that’s the people I love. I mean, I won’t cast someone who I feel comes in with a lot of baggage or a lot of attitude. No way. Here’s a great Meryl Streep story I love so much. I was working out the schedule for into the woods, and I sat Meryl down. I said, meryl, here’s what I’m thinking. I’m thinking that I’ll bring in the cast, we’ll work for about three weeks, and then we’ll have you come in, and then we’ll focus on your work. And because I was trying to kind of, you know, not make her have to sit around. And she said, okay, so wait, let me get this straight. So everybody’s there, the entire company except for me, and everybody’s getting to know each other. Everybody’s working on this piece, and then in she comes. That’s how she said it. In she comes. Because, are you kidding me? I want to be there from the very first moment I’m playing the witch. I’m in everybody’s business. I need to be part of the whole process. And I thought, okay, this is why she’s a great actor.

Steve Cuden: That’s why she’s a great actress. When she’s in it, she’s all the.

Rob Marshall: Way in it and loves it, wants to be there for every second of it.

Steve Cuden: I have to assume that Daniel day Lewis is the same way, considering his reputation, 100%.

Rob Marshall: I mean, the gorgeous thing about Danny, people have asked me, was it weird when he was on set? He doesn’t come out of character. People have to call him by his character’s name, that kind of thing. I said, are you kidding me? Weird? It’s a total dream. Are you kidding? I have an actor who is so dedicated, so deep inside something, you know, doesn’t leave the set. So when I say, okay, here we go, he’s right there. I’m not going get him in his trailer. He’s ready on, you know, take one. He’s in it so deep. It is a total joy. And he is a total joy. I never called him by his character’s name, ever. I called him Daniel, and that was it. I mean, he’s just a consummate. He gives everything plus, which is why he’s retired. I mean, I think he’s. He gave his whole life. I mean, there’s, like, nothing left. You know, he gave everything. He gives everything. He gives blood. And it’s an incredible experience to work with him, and incredible on every level as a human being, but also as an artist.

Steve Cuden: Well, he’s, in my opinion, the single greatest actor of the last 50 years, no question.

Rob Marshall: And you know what? He lives it very deeply. I mean, there are different ways that people work. You know, some people would rather just have fun and be laughing and talking to the crew and then jump in. They’re there. You know, that’s their process. I embrace every kind of process. You know, I don’t have a director style. You know, my style is to make them great, period.

Steve Cuden: That’s an incredible philosophy.

Rob Marshall: It’s all I care about. Protecting them, making them great, making them as great as they can be, making them feel comfortable where they’re doing so they can literally fly and do their best work.

Steve Cuden: So I don’t want to spend a lot of time on it.

But I’m fascinated that you’ve come all the way up through the ranks into huge cg movies. Little mermaid is spectacular, and the animation in it and the way that you did it is just unbelievable. How did you learn to function in that world?

Rob Marshall: Well, you know what? It was great that I was able to do a little bit of CGI in this film, little in this. Pirates of the Caribbean had an enormous amount indeed. But I did feel that by the time I got to mermaid, I was ready, you know, ready for that next step. It was the hardest film I’ve ever done. Because of COVID it took four and a half years because a lot of prep to do. And then, of course, the year, basically, we lost. But then the post production on it, all the CGI on it, every single piece, strand of hair was added underwater. Everything underwater, with, you know, backgrounds, costumes, everything. I mean, everybody was in tracking suits and in. Their face was there, but the face had dots on, and, I mean, it was. We were doing real work. I remember sitting the entire cast down and saying, here’s the thing. This is such a complicated film. It’s literally a ballet. Everybody’s either on some kind of apparatus. They’re either on wires or on tuning forks, they call them, or teeter totters. No one is. No one’s on the ground. So it all has to be choreographed like a ballet. And I’ll be doing just pieces and then cutting, because then I have to switch you to another rig to do another something. I said, it’s going to be done in so many pieces. But here’s what I’m saying right now. The technical aspect of this film, not lead the film. I don’t want people to see how hard it was. I want it to look like it was easy. I want people to be engrossed in the story and really connected to you as characters. So we rehearsed it separately from all the technical parts of it, and then we added the technical parts of it. That’s how it worked. It was so complicated. If John and I weren’t choreographers, I don’t think we could have done it, because, like I said, it was literally a ballet. And we were doing it with masks and with literally shields on our faces. So we. Because of COVID we were the second movie up and running in England. Jurassic park was first, and then us over at Pinewood Studios. And we were, you know, we were. We felt somewhat like guinea pigs. It was so difficult. But I will say, the thing I’m most proud of that film is that because it was so impossibly hard to do, that people were still moved by it because they were moved by the story, by the acting, by the work.

Steve Cuden: Oh, I think mission accomplished. There’s no question. It is exquisite to look at. The effects are amazing, but it is the story. I’ve always said the greatest special effect we can ever have is a good story.

Rob Marshall: 100%. What a beautiful way to say it, Steve. That’s exactly right. People don’t realize, but that’s what everybody wants. They want to go, and they want to hear or see a great story. That’s the bottom line. And, you know, we get lost in all the other things, but I’m always pushing myself because it’s a very technical medium and it’s become more so. And so you have to fight against that and keep making sure that you are telling a story. Characters you care about, you’re interested in their. In their journey, and you want to be involved.

Steve Cuden: Well, and you have done two major movies with water.

Rob Marshall: Good luck. Thank you. It’s true. Water’s hard. Listen, it all has massive challenges. One of the things I love, though, is not repeating myself in terms of the kind of movie I do, because this is your life. These are journeys of your life, these big, sort of massive films. And they take many years. So I like having a different experience each time a different something, you know, do something else and try a different genre. And, certainly an underwater musical was not that I had on my, you know, in my head, but I’m glad to accomplish that.

Steve Cuden: Well, I’m certainly, looking forward to whatever you’re going to be doing in the future. I’m having one of the most incredible conversations ever on this show with Rob Marshall, and we’re an hour into this thing and we’re going to wind the show down a little bit.

And I’m wondering, in all of these incredible experiences you’ve had, and you’ve told us many, can you share with us a story beyond what you’ve already told us that’s either weird, quirky, offbeat, strange, or maybe just plain funny beyond what you’ve already said?

Rob Marshall: One comes to mind, right away, Mips. Because my first film, I remember turning to Renee Zellweger when we were working so hard on that film, because we did very quickly, I was working, like, literally six days a week. And we were just. It was like, you know, overtime. And anyway, we were just, like, killing ourselves. And I turned to her, it must have been three in the morning. One night we were working on something and said, you know what? You know, you’re going to find me one day at the end of this film face down in a pile of sequins, you know, and we were laughing about it. Ha. ha. So anyway, the movie comes to an end, you know, I say, cut. On the last shot of the film, I say, that’s a wrap. Da da da. and she says, come here. And she pulled me into this room. But it was. It was actually a soundstage. It was in one of the sets, and there was literally a ton of sequins. I don’t know, she got all these sequins brought in like a truckload, and she said, okay, now you have to fall face down in it. And, she did. And we laughed so hard. So I threw myself into it, into the pilot sequence based down in pile of sequence, and we laughed so hard. That was really special. She made that really fun. She was so lovely. She remembered that I had said that and then made it come true. It was hilarious. So that. I love that.

And another fun one. Just because it’s fun, just because I love him so much. Johnny Depp. We were doing pirates of the Caribbean. We were shooting outside in Greenwich, London. And, he was such a massive star. I mean, he’s still a massive star. At that point, at the height of pirates, he was like. People were insane. And we were behind this fence and he was doing this crazy stunt where he was standing on top of a carriage. Okay? He was on the carriage. It’s like. He was like surfing on top of a carriage. So he’s on this carriage and we’re about to go. So we put him up now because he’s high up enough. people can see him now. See, they could only see it was a big fence around us, so no one could see. But now he’s up high enough. So they’re screaming, Johnny, Johnny, oh, my God, I love you. all this stuff, right? And he turns to me and says, if they only knew why I love him so much. Because he gets it. You know, he gets it. It’s like that image is bigger than who he is, what they think he is and who he is. He’s the sweetest man, honestly, the sweetest man. And he just turned to me, said, if they only knew. And it was just. I just thought that was so humble and so funny. And he’s just great. I love him to death.

Steve Cuden: Well, the story that is always told about him is that when he started out, he didn’t want to be a, good looking leading man. He just wanted to be a character actor.

Rob Marshall: Yeah, no, that’s what he is, you know? And he’s just. He’s. It’s like an accidental movie story, you know, he. But he is just a divine person who comes onto the set and literally says good morning to everybody and thank you to everybody. And he’s just a generous, beautiful soul.

Steve Cuden: Well, that’s a good thing to know because he does have any more. He’s got some strange reputational things going on, so it’s good to hear that.

Rob Marshall: Yeah. No, I mean, you know, when you know him and you work with him. It’s very clear.

Steve Cuden: Well, that’s great to hear.

So, last question for you today. Rob, you’ve given us huge amounts of advice throughout this whole show, but do you have a single solid piece of advice, or maybe more than one that you can share with those who are just starting out in the business, or maybe they’re in a little bit and trying to get to the next level?

Rob Marshall: You know what I have to say? The most important thing is to be in it for the right reasons. I think that’s kind of been lost a little. I think a lot of people that I speak to or see are interested in becoming famous or stars of some kind. That happens so rarely. It’s like literally, winning the lotto. So what you have to do is you have to love the craft. You have to love what you’re doing. You know, I see that in Meryl Streep. She loves to do it. I remember Chris Pine turning to me as we were working on into the woods. He said, she’s so great. She’s loving doing this. I said, yeah, that’s why the longevity. She loves it. She wants to act. She wants to be somebody else. She gets excited about that. So you have to be in it for the right reason. And I think and really know that because it’s the hardest business in the world, you know, Steve. And you have to love it from every pore of you, not just because you want something out of it, famous or whatever. You have to. It has to be something you can’t live without, you have to do and has to be your passion. And so I would say, make sure it’s your passion. I remember I was with a director once when I was a choreographer, and this wonderful actor came in. He was lovely, handsome, sang well, acted well, walked out. The director turned to me and said, well, he has just enough talent to have chosen the wrong profession.

Steve Cuden: Oh, wow.

Rob Marshall: And I thought, you know what? That’s true. Because you know what? It’s like you. It’s he good enough, but not every. It’s not all there. Do you know what I mean? It’s not everything. You have to know that this is everything for you because it’s so hard.

Steve Cuden: Well, I think that that’s extremely wise. And if you’re in the business and you’re not succeeding at whatever you think is success, the, question is, are you trying to continue to work on your craft and on your discipline and on your talent? Yeah.

Rob Marshall: Is it something you have to do, and can you find your way into it. But you also have to listen, right? I mean, I listened to my injury and found myself choreographing and found my way there. You have to, you know, you can’t keep butting up against, like a brick wall. Like I was saying before, you have to learn to flow and move to the sort of, the next thing. But you have to know that you’re doing it because you love it and you want to do it for sure.

Steve Cuden: If you’re trying to be in the business, to be rich or famous, you’ve made a mistake, I think.

Rob Marshall: No question. No question.

Steve Cuden: You can get there, and many people do, but that’s not the reason why they got there.

Rob Marshall: The byproduct of, it. You know what I mean?

Steve Cuden: It is.

Rob Marshall: But there will be rough times with those people, too. Believe me, I know a lot of really famous actors who go through rough times of not being hired or looking for the right thing. And everybody, it’s all ups and downs. So you have to really want to do it for the right reasons, the real reason.

Steve Cuden: Well, so let me ask you then, which I’ve talked about this forever, which is, I’m going to guess that you’ve been involved in more than a few projects that didn’t go through.

Rob Marshall: Yes, I have, but not many. I have to say I’ve been very lucky in that way. The things that I have chosen have been greenlit and gone forward. There are a few that haven’t, but they’re outweighed by the ones that have.

Steve Cuden: Because when we see this notices in the trades, it’s only the ones that succeed, or maybe spectacularly fail in some way. But you don’t see the ones that you’re working on, and they just don’t work out. And that’s going to be true for anyone, for Steven Spielberg or anyone.

Rob Marshall: And you have to let them go. You have to move on to the next thing. It’s not meant to be. You have to believe in that. Truthfully.

Steve Cuden: Indeed, Rob Marshall, I cannot tell you how delighted I am that you’ve been on the show today. This has just been so much m fun, so great.

Rob Marshall: Love speaking with you. I wish I could remember seeing you in that 1976 bicentennial show, because I’m sure I did. I have no question it was true. But anyway, it’s so lovely to speak to you. I’m sure your students are just, like, overwhelmed to be working with you and listening to you and learning from you and being inspired by you, that I have no question.

Steve Cuden: and so we’ve come to the end of today’s StoryBeat. If you liked this episode, won’t you please take a moment to give us a comment, rating, or review on whatever app or platform you’re listening to? Your support helps us bring more great StoryBeat episodes to you. StoryBeat is available on all major podcast apps and platforms, including Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and many others. Until next time, I’m Steve Cuden, and may all your stories be unforgettable.

Executive Producer: Steve Cuden, Producer: Casey Georgi, Announcer: Javier Grajeda
Social Media: Mina Hoffman, Design & Marketing: Holly Reed, Reed Creative Group

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