Ron Batzdorff
May 09, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

Who could have predicted that the latest film from the man behind sweet comedies like Princess Diaries and Pretty Woman would turn into such a drama? Garry Marshall’s new movie seems innocuous enough: A raucous girl (Lindsay Lohan) proves too much trouble for her mother (Felicity Huffman) and is sent to spend the summer with her grandmother (Jane Fonda) in Idaho. ”There’s a lot of pain and mourning and dysfunction there,” Fonda says of her character. ”And her way to deal with that is to have rules. You show up on time. Meals happen on time.”

Unfortunately for the producers, it turned out that the star of their movie hadn’t learned the lessons of that plot. After Lohan reportedly started showing up late to the set — and at least once didn’t show up at all — Morgan Creek CEO James G. Robinson (whose company produced Rule) sent the Letter Read Around the World. The sharply worded — and strategically leaked — missive chastised and threatened Lohan for unprofessional behavior and became a rallying cry for Hollywood execs sick of catering to overindulged stars. ”We were low-budget,” says director Marshall. ”She missed one day and Robinson knew that if she missed more we would fall behind. So he wrote a memo, she showed up bright and early, and we went on.” For her part, the 20-year-old star is remarkably honest when discussing what went down last July. ”It is what it is,” says Lohan. ”I needed to get my life in check, and I did. [Lohan entered rehab on Jan. 17 of this year.] And everything’s fine with them. They’re great people. And I talk to James frequently.”

With the on-set drama done, the real question for Universal is whether or not Lohan can open her first R-rated starring vehicle without her heretofore loyal tween fan base. As Fonda points out, ”This is not an earnest, dour film, but it’s not a popcorn movie either.” True. But we’re guessing the folks behind Rule have already seen enough fireworks to last them the summer anyway. (May 11)

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