When moviegoers first met Anne Hathaway, she was a frizzy-haired teen named Mia Thermopolis who lived in a firehouse and just happened to be royalty. The Princess Diaries was Hathaway’s silver screen debut, but that wasn’t the only notable thing about director Garry Marshall’s family flick. He managed to snag semi-retired Dame Julie Andrews to play Mia’s grandmother, the queen of (fictional) Genovia. Also in the cast? A secret Coppola and an actual politician. Read the details on Marshall’s casting choices, as well as his sly Pretty Woman references, below.
1. ANNE HATHAWAY GOT THE PART BY FALLING OUT OF HER CHAIR.
How did 18-year-old Anne Hathaway land her first movie? Simple: by falling on her face. Hathaway was apparently so nervous during her audition that she slid off her chair, which immediately endeared her to Garry Marshall. He cast her as klutzy Mia based on that audition alone.
2. GARRY MARSHALL WAS A JULIE ANDREWS SUPERFAN.
Marshall was open to casting an unknown as Mia, but there was only one person he wanted for Queen Dowager Clarisse Renaldi: As far as he was concerned, it was Dame Julie Andrews or bust. “She’s so talented and I’m a great admirer of her,” Marshall told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “I went 11 times to see [her in the 1956 Broadway production of] My Fair Lady in New York and she fascinated me. I said to myself, ‘She’s very good, whoever that girl is.’ Now I am just thrilled that we are working together!”
3. IT WAS FILMED ON THE SAME STAGE AS MARY POPPINS.
Andrews returned to a sentimental place for this shoot. The Princess Diaries was filmed on Stage 2 in Walt Disney Studios—which is also where Robert Stevenson shot the movie that made Andrews a star, Mary Poppins. “Karma, I tell you,” she said in an interview. “When I went onto that soundstage, there was a little plaque on the door that says, ‘Mary Poppins was filmed here’ and suddenly I became very nostalgic.” The set got another plaque in 2001 when it was rechristened “Julie Andrews Stage 2” to honor the actress.
4. IT WAS ORIGINALLY CALLED THE PRINCESS OF TRIBECA.
The film’s first title referenced its literary roots. In Megan Cabot’s book series The Princess Diaries, Mia and her mom live in Manhattan. This was the original plan for the movie, too, so it was called The Princess of Tribeca. But the location was changed to San Francisco further into production, which meant the name had to be tweaked as well.
5. THE CAST WAS FULL OF FAMILY MEMBERS.
For Marshall, The Princess Diaries was a family affair. His daughter Kathleen played Queen Clarisse’s assistant, Charlotte Kutaway; his wife Barbara played Lady Jerome; and his granddaughters Lily and Charlotte played the two girls who ask Mia for her autograph. He wasn’t the only one roping family members into roles. Marshall’s longtime friend Hector Elizondo (who acted in every single movie Marshall made, including this one) got his granddaughter, Juliet, a small part as the Genovian prime minister’s daughter, Marissa Motaz.
6. JULIE ANDREWS AND HECTOR ELIZONDO CONSPIRED TO MAKE THEIR CHARACTERS A COUPLE.
In The Princess Diaries, widowed Queen Clarisse begins a romance with her limo driver, Joe—and it was all thanks to Andrews and Elizondo’s easy chemistry. “In the original script he was just a guy who drove a limo,” Elizondo told SFGate. “But slowly we evolved this other character. That came from the reading: Julie and I looked at each other and said, ‘Hmm, you’re cute.’ We liked each other very much.”
7. ROBERT SCHWARTZMAN’S FAKE BAND PLAYED A SONG BY HIS REAL BAND.
Mia’s love interest, Michael Moscovitz, plays keyboard for a fictional band called Flypaper. Coincidentally, the actor who played Michael has a band of his own. Robert Schwartzman is the frontman for Rooney, whose single “Blueside” appears in the movie. Schwartzman actually plays the song onscreen at a Flypaper band practice, along with another real-life Rooney bandmate, Ned Brower.
8. HE’S ALSO PART OF A HOLLYWOOD DYNASTY.
Schwartzman has only acted in a handful of films, but you might’ve seen his brother Jason in a Wes Anderson movie or two. If not, he’s got plenty of other famous family members. Robert’s mom is Talia Shire, his uncle is legendary director Francis Ford Coppola, and his cousins include Sofia Coppola and Nicolas Cage. No wonder he showed up in Sofia’s first two movies, Lick the Star and The Virgin Suicides.
9. THERE’S A PRETTY WOMAN CONNECTION.
Marshall’s movie Pretty Woman has a lot in common with The Princess Diaries. Both films have a Pygmalion-esque transformation story and actors like Elizondo and Patrick Richwood. But they also contain an identical joke: In The Princess Diaries, Mia accidentally breaks a glass at her first fancy dinner. A sympathetic waiter immediately runs over and assures her that “it happens all the time.” Similarly, in Pretty Woman, Vivian embarrasses herself at a posh dinner when she accidentally flings an escargot across the room. A waiter catches it mid-air and tells her “it happens all the time.” The craziest part? Both waiters are played by the same actor, Allan Kent.
10. THE MAYOR OF SAN FRANCISCO PLAYED HIMSELF.
Willie Brown, who served as San Francisco’s mayor from 1996 through 2004, appears as himself at the movie’s climatic Genovian Independence Day ball. He even gets a line. When a reporter asks him if he thinks it’s going to rain, Brown quips, “It never comes down on Willie Brown.”
11. WHITNEY HOUSTON WAS A PRODUCER.
Whitney Houston was one of four credited producers on the film. She also returned to produce the sequel, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. See if you can spy her at the end of this B-roll footage.
12. THE MOVIE NEARLY COST HATHAWAY LATER ROLES.
While promoting 2015's The Intern, Hathaway admitted that she struggled to be taken seriously after The Princess Diaries. “It was a great first job. It was a hit,” she told The Huffington Post. “But at the same time, it was a hard thing to be like, 'You know, Robert Rodriguez, I swear: I can do one of your movies.' It was hard to get into rooms to be taken seriously for roles that weren't princesses.” In one case, this bias nearly cost her a job. Hathaway’s director on Becoming Jane, Julian Jarrold, initially didn’t want to meet with her at all. Her first audition didn’t impress him either, but she won him over in the second one. Weirdly, she did this by showing up sleep-deprived.
“I was tired and I wasn’t in a very good mood,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “I guess Julian realized that I wasn’t the happy, smiley, untroubled girl from The Princess Diaries. He offered me the role after that.”