A Malibu fairy tale told

Casper Van Dien and his wife, real life Princess and actress Catherine Oxenberg, along with their brood of five children will be featured in a new TV reality series, "I Married a Princess," premiering on Lifetime April 18, 8 p.m. Pictured, back row: Cappy, 11, Celeste, 1, Casper, Catherine and India, 13. Front row: Gracie, 8, and Maya, 3.

Van Dien/Oxenberg family to film reality TV show at home in Malibu.

By Ryan O’Quinn/Special to The Malibu Times

Some little girls pretend they are princesses and some dream about marrying a movie star. Some little boys (and big boys) dream about being in movies and marrying a beautiful woman. Well, sometimes dreams really do come true, especially in Malibu.

Actor Casper Van Dien’s dream came true six years ago when he married actress and real life princess Catherine Oxenberg. Their fairy tale story will unfold for the world to see on April 18 as the Van Dien’s put their life on the small screen in a new reality installment on the Lifetime Network called “I Married a Princess.”

The title of the series is fitting, given Oxenberg’s genealogy. She is named for a maternal ancestor, Catherine the Great of Russia, and is the daughter of Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia and the granddaughter of the former Regent King of Yugoslavia.

Oxenberg was raised in New York and graced the covers of numerous fashion magazines before landing a role as Amanda Carrington on “Dynasty.” She has appeared in various film and television roles including seven films with her husband.

Van Dien hit the big screen in the 1990s with a breakout role as Johnny Rico in the sci-fi hit “Starship Troopers.” His roles onscreen have ranged from Tarzan to James Dean, and the ever-busy actor currently, has four movies in post-production and nearly 50 movies to his credit.

Part of the excitement of the television series revolves around the parents and their brood of offspring ranging in age from one to 13. Van Dien has two children from a previous marriage, Oxenberg one, and they have two together.

The concept for the series began more than two years ago when Oxenberg saw an episode of “The Osbournes” and told her husband they should do a show about their lives. At the time, Van Dien was not interested in the concept.

“At first I didn’t want to do it at all,” Van Dien said. “I said ‘I’m an actor, not a reality guy.’ As an actor you strive to be real on camera. Now I look at the show and realize there has never been a time when I am more real. I can’t put on the ‘I’m an actor now’ [fa├žade]. It’s the ultimate acting exercise.”

Van Dien finally relented to his wife’s ideas and they sat down for a family meeting, which is common in the household. They asked the children about the notion of filming a TV show and the youngsters were ecstatic.

Van Dien said their daughter Maya, 3, was recently watching her mother in a guest starring role on a TV sitcom and pointed at the television and said “I want to be in there.”

If in fact the children continue a career in the entertainment industry, they will have come by it naturally. Oxenberg’s first acting coach was Richard Burton, Van Dien’s two children are the great grandchildren of Robert Mitchum and he is a distant relative of Mark Twain.

After tracking down Carole Black, president and CEO of Lifetime Entertainment, the family presented her with a four-minute pitch tape. The network was sold on the idea and ordered 13 episodes.

“We didn’t want anything contrived,” Oxenberg said of their concept. “We didn’t want to stage anything. We’re dealing with kids and we wanted it to be honest. It’s about total exposure. What’s the point of doing it otherwise? I’m so tired of the whole image thing.”

Having cameras in the house is no easy chore, the couple admitted, but it is a little easier since the children have practically grown up around movie and TV sets. Oxenberg’s daughter, India, 13, once told someone that her mother lived and worked in a trailer – not far from the truth considering the number of movie sets India visited as a child.

Van Dien said he was once called to come to school because his son, Cappy, 11, told fellow students and teachers that his father ran around naked in the jungle and talked to animals. Van Dien set the record straight when he informed them he had starred in the film “Tarzan and the Lost City.”

“I thought we could do a show about our family,” Oxenberg said. “There’s a lot of humor in our house. We are totally committed to each other as a family and the kids will always keep us in check.

“Before we agreed to anything, Casper read the entire contract,” Oxenberg added. “He is very protective of the children.”

“I Married a Princess” has ideal ingredients for a show that appeals to a broad audience. There are behind-the-scenes looks at the Hollywood lifestyle of glitz, glamour and movie premieres, the demands of real-life royalty and also the very real reality of changing diapers and raising a blended family of five children, all with unique personalities that require attention.

“When the crown comes off and the limos roll away, it’s just us, diapers and all,” Van Dien said.

Van Dien and Oxenberg said this shoot has been unique not only because they get to work together as a family, but also because they have some creative input on each episode.

“When I agreed [to do the show] I laid down some ground rules,” Van Dien said. “I said you have to shoot us doing what we really do. It’s real stuff and fortunately, or unfortunately, they film it. We go to different spiritual events, charity events, whatever, and the cameras are there.”

The cameras tag along in various episodes, such as the family attending therapy sessions, renewing their wedding vows and even a trip to Europe to help Oxenberg’s mother campaign for president of Serbia in 2004. The cameras also follow Van Dien on the set of a movie and reveal his transformation from dad to movie star. Incidentally, that film, “Personal Effects,” will air on Lifetime on Monday night following the first two episodes of the series.

The Van Diens live near Zuma Beach and say that Malibu is their first choice in places to live.

“I love Malibu,” said the princess, whose mother was born in Yugoslavia’s White Palace. “I always wanted to live here.”

“Our kids are in the Malibu school system and we love it,” Van Dien noted.

The couple recently hosted a fundraising event for tsunami victims and said the outpouring of support from Malibu business owners and residents was tremendous. The event will also be featured in an episode of the series.

“I Married a Princess” will premiere on Lifetime on Monday, April 18, at 8 p.m.