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Modern Fairy Tale Sequel <i>The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement</i> Aims to Equal Surprise Hit's Success - 2004-08-19


A surprise hit of 2001 has a sequel, bringing back some favorite characters for families and especially young girls in the modern-day fairy tale, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.

In the first film San Francisco teenager Mia Thermopolis learned that she is really Princess Mia, next in line for the throne of the tiny nation of Genovia. In the sequel, she has graduated from college and is settling in to life as a royal.

Mia's grandmother, Queen Clarisse, intends to step aside and let her the young woman assume the throne; but even a tiny monarchy can have its share of palace intrigue. A distant relative declares his son should become king because Princess Mia is single.

So now the young princess has 30 days to find a suitable suitor and get married in order to preserve the monarchy or does she?? Anne Hathaway returns as Mia.

"I'm very lucky [because] Mia is a character that has come very naturally to me; but, at the same time, I was nervous about revisiting a character that I created when I was 17 and [making her] 21 - especially in the G-rated format because, let's face it, life changes," says Hathaway. "Then I realized that if you consider the world Mia is living in it makes it a lot easier to make the choices. She lives in a conservative country. Although she is a non-conformist ruler, she understands there are certain aspects: she can't rock the boat too much. It was difficult, but at the same time I understood why it had to be the way it was."

Screen and stage veteran Julie Andrews again brings her touch of class to the story as Queen Clarisse.

"First of all, we had become family by the end of the first one," Andrews notes. "Secondly, we had, to some degree, worked out our characters a little bit and so this was really kind of an embellishment. I think it's a better screenplay this time around. It's stronger and has more drama; and that's unusual in a sequel, as a rule."

The film features her first singing performance since a 1998 surgery mishap left her vocal chords damaged; but Julie Andrews does not want it blown out of proportion.

"It was very carefully constructed and carefully done so that I talk my way into it, I sort of sing-speak and I hand it off to the kids at the end," she explains. "It is not really singing 'the hills are alive with the sound of music.' It's definitely not that. I still can not sing in the real sense of the word. Can I hit a few bass notes? Yes, once in a while, on a good day."

However, co-star Hathaway says it was a thrilling moment for the entire cast.

"To be in the center of all of that - to have Julie take my hand, look in my eyes and sing that song to me I am jealous of me. Are you kidding, it was so awesome," recalls Hathaway. "I have a lot of great professional memories in my life, but that one crosses over into personal highlights of my life ... moments that I'm going to treasure."

Like the first film, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement is a fairy tale at heart.

"I think the kids just want true love to win. I want true love and intelligence to win," says Garry Marshall, who also directed the first film and whose work includes the 1990 hit Pretty Woman. He says he believes in the genre.

"I like to make the people want to believe the story. We know it might be too silly; but my direction to all the actors is 'play it real; play it totally, truthfully real. Don't kid around.' I'll kid around with crazy bits, but you have to play it sincere and real," he says. "That makes the fairy tale real and gets you involved with it. I like to do that. I think that there is a lot of negative out there. Some of it is great art, but somewhere on this level of young people I think you have to set up some positive images."

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement introduces young Chris Pine as the handsome would-be Prince Charming. The cast also features English actors Callum Blue and John Rhys-Davies; and New Yorker Hector Elizondo, a veteran of all of director Garry Marshall's films. The characters come from the popular Princess Diaries novels written by Meg Cabot.

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