Since the movie’s debut in 1990, Marshall and Roberts remained close until the award-winning director’s passing Tuesday at 81.
In a 2006 interview with PEOPLE, Marshall talked about discovering Roberts, now 48, for the role of Vivian: “We’re a business who loves to discover a star. She was absolutely delightful and charming. It wasn’t just good acting – she was magical. Sooner or later, somebody would have discovered her, but I was glad I was the one.”
Marshall admitted he knew right away Roberts was who they were looking for to play the prostitute who captured the mogul’s heart.
“I remembered I screen tested her with a bunch of people, including some ringers who were so funny I thought they would blow her right out, but they didn’t,” he said. “I remember after the screen test, I called Jeffrey Katzenberg and said, ‘We’ve got to get a guy, but the guy’s not so important because we’re going to make it with this girl. She’s got it.'”
Their relationship began from there, with Marshall remarking in a 2011 PEOPLE interview that the then 21-year-old Roberts was a free spirit in the film.
“She liked to try things, was open to all sorts of growing up things, and yet had a way of acting that was very special. I always remember that she never quite sat. She would always lean or sit on this or sit on that. She would never, like, take a chair and sit down like a normal person. So I used that in the movie. If you watch the movie she’s always leaning or sitting on strange things. The only time she sat was at the opera.”
In a 2001 PEOPLE interview, Marshall recalled how surprised he was that she wasn’t afraid to put her body on the line when improvising in the scene after Richard Gere‘s character hires her for a week.
“She ran and leaped up on the bed and flattened herself out, I didn’t tell her to do that, she just likes to jump. She’s very comfortable with her body flying through the air and many women in Hollywood aren’t.”
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Her youth and inexperience was apparent a few times during filming, especially when it came time for the nude scenes. In 2001, Marshall talked about making her comfortable while they shot in the bathtub.
“When I have to direct a nude scene, I try to distract people from thinking about it. I told her I put goldfish in the tub so she forgot and started looking for them.”
With the success of the film also came the demand for a sequel, no matter how nonsensical the plot.
Marshall has said he was pitched several different stories in an interview from 2000.
“People knew I liked sports, so they kept saying, ‘How about Richard Gere starts to own a team and she butts in?’ or ‘How about he’s a pirate and she’s a heroine or they become bank robbers?’ There were a lot of strange premises, but we didn’t find anything we liked.”
But if there ever was going to be a sequel, Marshall had a deal with Roberts and Gere.
“We wrote it and they just didn’t think it was something they wanted to do. You know as the time goes, they change their regimes … Richard and Julia and I had made a pact. Whatever we do, we’re gonna do together and for whatever reason I don’t think they were rushing to do that particular script.”