Penny Marshall was working on her Dennis Rodman documentary just hours before she died

Suzy Byrne
Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
Penny Marshall had been working on a Dennis Rodman documentary since 2012 and the morning she died, she had a call about it. The pair, although seemingly different, were great friends. (Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Penny Marshall was working on the morning she died.

The Big and A League of Their Own director had a call Dec. 17, the day she died “peacefully at her Hollywood Hills home,” to discuss the Dennis Rodman documentary she had been working on since 2012. “She phoned that morning,” Matthew Conlan, Marshall’s son-in-law, a producer on the film, told the Hollywood Reporter. “She said, ‘What are we doing with Rodman? We’ve got work to do!'”

Earlier this week, it was revealed that Marshall died as a result of heart failure attributed to heart disease and diabetes, according to her death certificate. She suffered from Type 1 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The Laverne & Shirley star, 75, was cremated on Dec. 26 and her remains were given to her sister, Ronny Hallin, who was by Marshall’s side when she died.

Rodman was one of many celebrities to pay tribute to Marshall after she died. He wrote that she was an icon to the world but a “good friend” to him.


According to the Hollywood Reporter, the documentary that was on Marshall’s mind the last day she was alive wasn’t complete — despite over 100 hours of interviews with the former NBA star’s associates and friends (including a pre-President Donald Trump). She started working on the project in 2012 at Rodman’s urging. He had been working with another director, Russell LaFreniere, but asked Marshall, whom he met courtside while playing for the Chicago Bulls, to take over. The film’s production had many stops and starts due to funding and personal reasons, including the death of Marshall’s director brother Garry Marshall, the loss of her best friend Carrie Fisher and her own health issues.

Marshall and Kim Jong Un’s BFF seem like an odd pair, but the two became the best of friends, not only hanging out at basketball games (she was a basketball superfan), but also spending Thanksgiving holidays at her home. Rodman affectionately called her “Miss Marshall.”

LaFreniere, the film’s first director, who later became a producer for Marshall, said, “She always said she was addicted to crazy. I think she saw a little of herself in Dennis — she’d been through difficult times too. She really cared about him. And once she came onto the movie, it opened doors. She could call Mark Cuban and he’d come over for an interview — that wasn’t something I could do.”

According to the documentary’s editor Keita Ideno, “Penny didn’t want to just make a movie about this crazy guy who flew to North Korea. She wanted people to know who Dennis Rodman really was. But then, at a certain point, they couldn’t pay us anymore. So they put the movie on hold.”

Now that Marshall’s gone, Conlan is hoping to wrap up the project for her — maybe in time for the planned September release date — as interest in it has spiked since her death.

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