It's a dream casting of Hollywood greats: Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Collins, Debbie Reynolds and Shirley MacLaine in a comic farce written by Reynolds' daughter Carrie Fisher. Sound profitable? Hollywood studios didn't think so.
The ladies in question wanted to start singing, dancing and working again in what they envisioned as a female version of Grumpy Old Men. They concocted a plot, enlisted Fisher as the scribe, and went shopping for a studio.
But the studio suits said it would be a commercial flop.
"They said the world wasn't ready for old ladies," Reynolds told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "Well, we're not old ladies, we're interesting, fabulous broads."
So the ladies turned to television, and found an eager network in ABC. The musical comedy, which is the story of a fictional group of screen legends reuniting on the tube, will air Monday, Feb. 12, at 8 p.m. ET.
"It's a script for women … not for kids in slip dresses," said Collins. "I think it's something that, unfortunately, there's not enough of."
Fisher agreed. "These women should be working. They've done it all their lives," she said. "They have this wealth of experience."
When most movies start shooting, introductions are in order. But except for Collins, the women share a complicated history worthy of its own Hollywood drama.
"I used to bounce Carrie on my knee 'cause my daughter was born around the same time," said MacLaine.
Gossip historians will note These Old Broads marks the first time Reynolds and Taylor have worked together since the big scandal of the 1950s, when Reynolds' husband Eddie Fisher (Carrie's dad) ran off with Taylor.
Instead of ignoring the past, they confront the incident in the movie with a scene where Reynolds' and Taylor's characters are dealing with a similar situation.
"This is a mess that was made in public 40-some years ago. I am an arguable victim of the mess," Fisher said. "We can handle it in public, in a funny way, 40-odd years later. I don't need therapy anymore!".
Reynolds says it was helpful for all involved. "Elizabeth said to me, 'I really did this for you and Carrie. I took this part because I did make some mistakes and this will help me feel better about that.' And I thanked her for it because it's my daughter's film."
Where'd the Guys Go?
Taylor plays the show business agent who reunites the screen legends and tries to hold the project together through petty feuds and technical snafus.
"It's basically a farce," said MacLaine, who describes the madcap infighting as the "kind of witty sarcasm as only Carrie can write."
Even the title is not to be taken too seriously.
MacLaine recalls that in the 1950s the phrase "broad" was complimentary. "It was being one of the crowd," she said. "In other words, 'we don't look at you like you're, uh, a woman we have to be careful with.' It's being one of the boys."
There are a few men in the cast, including Jonathan Silverman and Peter Graves. But for Fisher, those roles were tougher to fill.
"The men are all dead that these women acted with, because they were 20 years older. So that kind of puts them off the map," Fisher said. "We played this amazing game of trying to cast some of the other parts, and we would look it up on the Internet."
Searches revealed that most of the leading men from that era were either dead or long retired.
Bruises and Gossip
The veteran actresses proved they years haven't sapped their energy. The filming took 21 days, half the time normally allotted for the type of project.
"We have bruises and scratches and things like that. But it's mostly running into scenery," said MacLaine. "And every now and then a high heel jams through an instep or something.
"At the end of Friday you are exhausted, and Saturday you're in the hospital, and Sunday they let you out," she added. "And then you come back to work on Monday."
For Reynolds, the set became a bit of a coffeehouse where old friends could hash out the past.
"We can reminisce about how this husband did that, and that husband did that … Together, we've really gone through a lot of unhappy times and a lot of experiences and it was fun to dish with them."
If it's a success, could there be a sequel? Collins is not so sure.
"I don't know, you have to ask the producer," Collins said. "[It] would be great, if they can afford it [the actresses' salaries]. Not me, the others!"