Director Garry Marshall on how he landed Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Ashton Kutcher and more for his new romantic comedy

By Josh Rottenberg
February 05, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST
  • Movie

As the creator of such classic TV shows as Happy Days and the director of hit films like Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries, Garry Marshall, 75, has many of Hollywood’s best and brightest on speed dial, which made it slightly easier for him to recruit the cast for his sprawling new romantic comedy, Valentine’s Day. But only slightly. ”Putting this thing together was the closest thing to the invasion of Normandy,” he says, laughing.

First, Marshall lured Julia Roberts to play a soldier on leave from Iraq. Then Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Garner signed on as, respectively, a phone-sex operator and a schoolteacher. ”From there it snowballed,” says Marshall. Midway into the shoot, new stars like Taylor Lautner and Taylor Swift were still coming on board. ”I’m just afraid the critics are going to go, ‘With this kind of cast, they should have done an epic! Anna Karenina they should have done! What are they doing these love stories for?’ But that’s why we got them together: They all knew about love.”

Valentine’s Day is a tribute to romance, but with all the dealmaking required to get the cast, Marshall cracks, ”it’s also a salute to lawyers.”