Billy Crystal talks about his big-screen return in ‘Parental Guidance’
Billy Crystal and Bette Midler in 'Parental Guidance' (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
This Christmas, Billy Crystal is headed back to the big screen after nearly a decade away. "Parental Guidance," which Crystal stars in, produced, and co-wrote the story for, is his first leading role since 2002's "Analyze That." (He did have an uncredited cameo in 2010's "Tooth Fairy.")
This new movie pairs Crystal with Bette Midler as a couple of grandparents called upon by their adult daughter to watch over their three young grandchildren. The problems start when the older generation's notions of child rearing clash with the new methods that are popular today.
I spoke on the phone with Crystal about how his relationships with his real-life kids and grandkids inspired his new movie. He also explained why he's been largely absent from movie screens as of late, and whether or not he's planning on hosting the Oscars again anytime soon.
Matt McDaniel: How did the idea for 'Parental Guidance' come about?
Billy Crystal: The idea started for it when my wife and I had our granddaughters here for five days, when my kids went away. And on the sixth day, I rested. I came into the office and I said, 'Okay, here's the movie: it's old school/new school. It's trying to follow all the rules that my kids had about how to take care of the girls. And it could really be a movie for everybody; a family movie that could be really funny, which it is, and very touching, which it is, and have lessons learned, which it does. It took a long time to get this made, but here we are.
MM: This is your first leading role in a decade, since 2002's "Analyze That." Was the long development a factor in your time away?
BC: It's a combination of a lot of things. Most of that time I was preparing my Broadway show, "700 Sundays," and then touring with it. And then, the process of making this movie and getting it done was all I was focusing on. And there wasn't anything I was getting that I really loved, and I'd rather not do something than to do something that wasn't very good. So that's where we are. And I'm thrilled with this movie, and working with Bette and Marissa and these kids was really fantastic. It's everything I wanted it to be.
Watch the exclusive trailer premiere for 'Parental Guidance':
MM: How did you decide on Bette Midler to play your partner?
BC: When it got really close to Fox saying 'We're going to make it it,' then you start getting serious about casting. When we were writing, we really didn't think about any one person until we started to go, 'All right, we're really going to make this.' And then Andy Fickman, who directed the movie -- beautifully, I have to say -- we started talking about Bette. He used to be head of development at her company. And he said, 'You two together would just be so perfect.'
Bette and I have known each other for a long time -- over 30 years. And we always talked about 'We've got to do something together,' because our sensibilities are very similar. When this came up, we met, she loved it, and the studio loved the idea of the two of us together, and there we go. And every day on the set we were like a couple who had been married for a long time. We knew what to say, when to say it, when not to say something. Our timings were great. We cared about each other, and each other's performances, and it shows in the movie, and also in our relationship to the kids. It was really a great coup to get her, and a dream to work with her.