We are familiar with Billy Crystal as a Funnyman, whether it be for his Golden Globe-nominated work in When Harry Met Sally or City Slickers. Did you know though how personable this nine-time Academy AwardsHost really is? In Toronto to promote much-buzzed Monsters University, set ten years prior to the events of Monsters, Inc., the Actor greets a near-capacity room of Journalists on the Rooftop Lobby of his Hotel. A young-looking 65, he has a commanding presence over the room, quickly routing all attentions off him for a moment onto Moderator Richard Crouse‘s colourful shoes and socks. “Good for you!”, says Crystal as quickly our eyes revert back to him. At that moment we realize that despite such a celebrated career which has seen several highs, he’s really just one of us.
I set my Alarm Clock extra early to ensure I get to see Crystal greet Fans at City‘s Breakfast Television and equally he is gracious there to a sizable crowd, stopping to sign Autographs on his way in and out of the appearance. Although I sensed he didn’t love doing it, he still obliged for a quick Photo with me and my Dog – named Billy coincidentally – a meeting of three Williams. “He’s just super-nice”, one smiling Fan tells me as he admires his signed 8×10. Crystal delivers a Master’s Class in Celebrity Etiquette, which a far-less accomplished ’90s TV Actress who followed him on that Show should register for, sneaking-out a hidden Exit sheepishly.
We learned that Crystal once had aspired to be a Baseball Player which thankfully wasn’t meant to be, before graduating from the Film Program at New York University. Despite his scholastic focus being Film, it was Theatre which he claimed as his true passion. He recalls, “I sorta became Mike-ish in the Theatre Department, where we started to really act. We built our own theatre, took the lead on that with a bunch of other people and formed our own Actors’ Equity Company. That’s where I got my Actors’ Card.”.
The Mike he is referring to of course is the beloved Character he reprises in Monster’s University, Mike Wazowski. “I love this Guy. I actually think this is my most favourite Guy I’ve never played”, he admits. “I love that he’s forever positive. I love that he’s a Leader of Monsters, has a great sense of humour, stands up for himself and I love that he’s cranky too.”. This Prequel to $562-million-grossing Monster’s, Inc. focuses on how both Mike and his Buddy Sulley (John Goodman) overcome their differences to form a bond a Friendship as A-List Scarers.
On achieving a believable chemistry, Crystal credits fully a close-knit collaborative process with Co-Star Goodman. “We just insisted on being together. The funny moments have a great reparte because we’re with each other. In the tender moments like the scene at the lake when Mike realizes it’s just not gonna be and he tells Sulley, ‘I’m your friend’. It’s heartbreaking… we worked together and I think that’s why it played-out so well.”.
While we’re on the topic of scaring, he bares his soul to us admitting that his greatest fear is not being able to spend enough time with his beloved Grandchildren aged ten, seven and three-and-a-half. “I fear not having enough time to do all the things in my life (forgetting my business) that I want to do and accomplish and especially now with these little ones”, he says. “In life we never know just how far we’re gonna get. Fear is a really great motivator.”.
Crystal recalls the first time he had to explain his Celebrity to his Grandchildren. “The Girls and I were walking in the mall and a Paparazzi jumped out and started taking pics and it really freaked them out”, he remembers. “I had to explain what I did and that I was internationally famous (laughs), so I showed them Monsters, Inc. and obviously not the Orgasm Scene from When Harry Met Sally! I had to be Mike Wazowski for about a year. Now they see billboards and are kinda used to it.”.
On the secret to his longevity in Hollywood, we learned that in addition the ardent support of his Audience, Crystal has been with the same Team since 1974. “They are my second Family. You need to be told the truth – good or bad – and it has to be done in the right way. You have to have someone you know who always is gonna be there for you. That way you can make mistakes but they don’t seem so bad.”.
Last but not least, he credits his the Woman behind it all. “My Wife Janice and I have been together since 1966, so anytime anything happens good or bad, she’s there”, he states. “Any moment of self-doubt, she lets me have them and talks me out of them. That’s most important.”.
Watch Video Excerpts from Crystal‘s Press Conference below:
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures releases Monsters University on Friday, June 21, 2013.