'Three Men and a Little Lady' cast has genuine rapport

November 23, 1990|By Knight-Ridder News Service

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. — Beverly Hills, Calif.

Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg and Ted Danson actually enjoy talking to each other.

And talking is the order of the day for the three stars of "Three Men and a Little Lady," which opened on Wednesday. They're supposed to feed chunks of chat to the huge crowd of entertainment journalists packing the ballroom of a chic Beverly Hills hotel. They don't have to talk to each other. They want to.

During five-minute breaks as they move from table to table, Mr. Danson and Mr. Guttenberg put their heads together over a long table of these occasions' ubiquitous kiwi fruit. Mr. Guttenberg waylays Mr. Selleck to offer a comment. Mr. Selleck and Mr. Danson stop to share a joke as they hunt for new seats in the game of musical chairs.

"We really do like each other," says Mr. Selleck.

"Working with Tom and Steve is one of the reasons I wanted to do the sequel," says Mr. Danson.

"We shot 'Three Men and a Baby' in Toronto, and none of us lived there," says Mr. Guttenberg. "So we hung out a lot together, we went to dinner all the time together during the shoot. . . . On the set, the joking was pretty much the same as in the first movie."

That ensemble feeling is important. Put it together with a "sure-fire" story and you have the twin peaks of Touchstone strategy for the kind of blockbuster hit that rakes in $168 million, as the first film did.

"Three Men and a Baby," which cast TV's Mr. Selleck and Mr. Danson and movie ensemble player Guttenberg in the American adaptation of a hit French story, was the epitome of the strategy.

"Three Men and a Little Lady" tries to make the magic happen again, with these differences: There was no ready-made story that had already been a hit elsewhere (1985's "Trois Hommes et Un Couffin," or "Three Men and a Cradle," was an enormous success in France); there was less time for the actors to get to know each other again; they had a new director.

The sequel takes up the story five years later, when baby Mary's mother, Sylvia (Nancy Travis), decides both she and her daughter need a more stable, emotionally centered household than the one provided by herself and the three bachelor daddies.

Says director Emile Ardolino, best known for "Dirty Dancing": "It's the breakup of their unique family that enables each of the characters to come to terms with their feelings about each other and the importance of family in their lives. The growth of the characters in facing this crisis is an important theme in the film -- that you're most fully alive when you're loving and caring for another human being."

"There's a lot of love in the household," said Mr. Guttenberg, "but the truth is that Mary needs to have a more normal environment. And the men have to decide to move on with their lives."

After auditioning 2,000 little girls, 5-year-old Robin Weisman was chosen to play Mary. "Because," says Mr. Ardolino, "Robin has a totally natural quality in front of the camera. She isn't affected in the way that many show biz children are at her age. She could interact with the others and become a true member of the ensemble."

Robin is also making the rounds of these interviews, and you can tell that Mr. Ardolino is right. When she's bored, she looks bored. When she doesn't know an answer, she says, "I dunno." And she's a natural cuddler, trustingly holding Nancy Travis' hand and curling up in her lap as if she'd been born there.

"She knows how to listen," says Mr. Selleck, "and that's really what acting is all about. She 'became Mary' in all of our eyes."

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