Interview: Billy Crystal and Bette Midler of 'Parental Guidance'
On casting, singing with an icon and weather-girl moves ...
If you grew up within a stone's throw of the '70s and '80s, to walk into a room containing Billy Crystal and Bette Midler is to walk into a room containing showbiz as you know it. In "Parental Guidance," the two play Artie and Diane, grandparents asked (and trapped) to take care of their grandkids while their daughter Marisa Tomei takes a rare vacation with her husband. Artie and Diane's old-school parenting, of course, results in hilarity, but at the same time, the characters never become caricatures. We spoke with Crustal and Midler about singing on-screen, the nature of comedy and working with the film's ensemble of old pros and kid actors.
MSN Movies: The great thing about this film is that a lot of comedies start with a situation and never get to the characters, and Artie and Diane are real people.
Billy Crystal: Well, I developed the movie. I wrote the first story for it, so the goal in really good comedies is to have (the characters) be real right from the beginning. And they have to be believable and put a believable person in a real situation. So once we knew we were going to make the movie and that Bette said yes, then the next past the script is you make it ours. And we really enjoyed being with each other so, that makes it easier, but when you write for it you have to write for the rhythms and so on, so it just feels real.
The other thing is, the kids are just great.
Crystal: Yeah, the kids are great.
What was the process like working with them and finding them?
Crystal: Finding them was the hard process because I'm on of the producers of the movie, and the casting was crucial. We were very fortunate to get Bailee Madison who's a veteran at 12, but finding the boys was really hard. Josh Rush, who is I think sensational in this movie, plays a very difficult part of a young boy with a speech impediment. And he was seven when I first met him and has to do a very difficult ... it's almost like ... I was calling it "The Kid's Speech."
A difficult part, a difficult monologue…
Crystal: Yeah, yeah. And a sensitive kid who doesn't say a lot in the movie 'til it's time, and he read for me two years ago the first time we read the script at the studio. The casting person sent him in, and he did this huge speech, nailed it, I was shocked and then he said, "Would you like to hear it in Spanish?"
Crystal: He's a brilliant kid. And Kyle we found in a commercial that he'd done in Canada.
And he's a little whirlwind.
Crystal: He's a little whirlwind.
Bette Midler: He's terrific.
Crystal: He's a bunch of red hair and energy.
Miss Midler, while it's brave of Mr. Crystal to get to do some on camera baseball announcing, I was a little bit let down we didn't get to see more of your ex-weather girl moves. Were you practicing for it?
Midler: Aw, well I did them, but they were left on the floor nevertheless. That's fine.
In the eight-hour long Paul Thomas Anderson director's cut of "Parental Guidance," we'll put them back in.
Midler: Great. I love him, by the way. He made a terrific movie.
Yeah. Mr. Crystal, at one point in this film you sing with Miss Midler. Was there even a moment's hesitation?
Midler: Completely, not even a moment.
Midler: In fact he wanted to, and I was the one saying, "Don't make me do that. C'mon, don't make me do that."
Crystal: I pushed her. I really pushed her.
Well I mean, it's not hard to a) put someone of your skill on a pedestal and b) we could put you on a literal pedestal made of gold records, Ms. Midler ...
Is it still fun to break that out and do it?
Midler: You know what? I really did resist it 'cause I wasn't sure that it felt right. I wasn't sure that it was right for the moment, but it turned out to be great. It's one of the highlights of the picture because the kids ... because it includes the kids listening and hearing something actually kind of foreign to that generation. And I thought that was fantastic. I loved that. I love exposing new generations to this music that I don’t want it to go away. I love it so much.
I've been humming "Book of Love" for a week.
You two are masters of comedy. What's the funniest thing you've seen all year?
Midler: Good question.
Crystal: I think so far there was an episode, two episodes of "Louie" that… (pause)
With Parker Posey?
Crystal: Parker Posey's episode is great but no. I just had one of those moments ...
Midler: What am I doing here? What's my name?
Crystal: David Lynch!
Midler: Oh, I have to see this.
Crystal: Those were hilarious episodes, and I just laughed really hard and my hat's off to Louie.
For more from "Parental Guidance," watch our video interview with Midler, Crystal and Marisa Tomei: