Garry Marshall knows how to make people laugh. The man's been doing it since he first started writing jokes for Jack Parr on

The Tonight Show. From his mind sprung classic TV shows like Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, and under his direction, films such as Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries became Hollywood blockbusters. Here, the 70-year-old writer/director (and sometime actor) tells TV Guide Online about his film Raising Helen (out this week on DVD) and why saying his name always makes us smile.

TVGO: What was it like directing Kate Hudson?
Garry Marshall:
She's fearless and will try anything. She has learned from her family about how to work and how to be a professional. She has a certain bubbly thing that gets up there on screen. Maybe it's because she hears music in her head a lot when she's acting.

TVGO: I just hear voices.
Voices I hear also.

TVGO: Do you immediately know when someone has that special quality, like Julia Roberts?
You never know if the movie's going to be special. But you can tell from dailies that somebody's lighting it up. Julia just lit it up and was so right for that part. Richard Gere understood that she was special. So he gave her room. Richard laid back so much that he said to me once, "You know what, she's so good at this, all you need is a suit and a tie. Why don't you let me go home?"

TVGO: How was it to reunite the two of them for Runaway Bride?
When you get big, you get busy. They got very busy. Richard was very involved with the Dalai Lama and on the phone to Tibet. Julia was on the other phone to Jamaica or Bermuda, trying to save orphans. I didn't want to interrupt her to do the scene — because I was afraid I'd hurt an orphan.

TVGO: What did you do?
I had to hide their phones to get any work done. If you notice in some scenes, they're looking around for their damn phones!

TVGO: Back to Pretty Woman. It has become a classic.
It's been hard for me. I've got a lot of pictures that critics didn't like when they came out, but they've changed their minds. Pretty Woman was not well received. Now everybody loves it. Flamingo Kid had a couple good reviews. Now, it's beloved. Nothing in Common got great reviews, but never got the audience. So you never know. I figure what I try to do is make it last a long time. A lot of my stuff has lasted a long time.

TVGO: Yeah, especially your TV shows. Are you surprised people still talk about Happy Days? When did it "jump the shark"?
Well, I started out making a kind of postcard to the '50s, and I shot a beautiful one-camera show on film. That wasn't strong enough for the competition on the other networks, so we went to a three-camera live-audience show. It was funny, but I always liked the original concept much better.

TVGO: How did you come up with your other shows?
Laverne & Shirley was about my sisters. Mork & Mindy... hmm... that was about the thoughts I had in my head, but didn't tell anybody. There were no aliens in my youth — if I talked about aliens, people would've said, "Go to the doctor!"

TVGO: Not all your shows were hits. What about Me and the Chimp?
From Julia Roberts to Me and the Chimp — quite a range, sir! It was not one of my highlights. The magic of a show has to do with the writing and directing matching with a magical star. What can I say? I cast the wrong chimp!

TVGO: Outside of directing, you still act.
Yes, I enjoy acting. It makes me a better director. I just played Jason Alexander's father [on Listen Up].

TVGO: Well, you've certainly had an amazing career..
I've enjoyed making people laugh, as corny as that sounds. As a kid on the streets of New York, I made them laugh, but it was so they didn't beat me up! You know, my mother named her kids Garry, Ronny and Penny, because when you say those names, your mouth always forms a smile, and that's a nice thing.