I LIKE MIKE: BILLY CRYSTAL ON “MONSTERS, INC” (part 4)

Ever since September 11, kids have been hearing about the ‘monsters,’ but now they aren’t in the closet. They actually have faces and names thanks to the media. Is it important for you to be a part of a film like this that can just transport people to a different place at a time where we all really just need to escape? ^ I think we need films like this at anytime. There are kinds of films like adult-comedies, which I’ve been in, and there are movies like this that everyone can see. What’s beautiful about this movie at any time is that it’s a wonderful two-hours of entertainment — and that’s good at any time. Now it’s even more special than any other time because families can all see it together, which is part of why I wanted to do it.
Being someone who is not only an actor, but also a director, a writer and a producer, what do you consider the most important aspect of a film? ^ The story. That is why I wanted to do Monsters, Inc. You know it’s going to look great. You know that Pixar’s going to come up with something — that is just what they do. A Bug’s Life and “Toy Story” were stunning movies — I voted for “Toy Story” for Best Picture. So that’s not the concern. The concern is, ‘is this story good?,’ ‘is this character fun?’– that’s what I look at and I thought the character and the story were extraordinary. This whole concept of this movie was so special and so mature I have to say. It’s a very, very smart movie.
Like you just said, similar to “Toy Story” and A Bug’s Life before it, Monsters, Inc has some groundbreaking animation achievements in it. Did you get a chance to spend time with the animators and learn how they create a picture like this, or were you kept separate from the whole process? ^ I asked them questions. That’s how you learn to do things, you ask. I’m not a computer person, but this is art of a different nature that’s really interesting to learn how to do. After a while though I’m one of those guys who says, ‘don’t tell me how you did it, show me.’ I don’t like those shows that have magicians on them and they show how they did the trick. I want to know that’s magic.
You have starred in so many films over the years, many of them being huge successes. Which roles and films do you hold near and dear to your heart? ^ I love this guy… All of the roles really. I’m thrilled to have had a career and keeping having one. It just keeps getting better. There are highlights for me that I like better than others, that’s true of anybody. There’s “When Harry Met Sally,” “Throw Momma From the Train,” working with Bob De Niro in Analyze This, all the Oscar shows… I could go on and on fortunately. But the ones that I love the most… “61” — probably the most– when the work is good I tend to remember those. The others I don’t remember so well.
If hosting the Oscars were a highlight in your career, why haven’t you hosted the show in recent years? ^ It’s hard. I don’t have anything to prove anymore. If it’s not fun, you shouldn’t do anything that’s not fun. Some years I feel like doing it and other years I just don’t want the pressure.
How is “Analyze That” coming along? ^ We haven’t started yet.
What about stand-up comedy? It seems like a lot of famous Hollywood comedians who got their start in stand-up comedy are returning to their roots. Outside of the finale for Monsters, Inc, do you have any plans to return to the stage? ^ Yeah, I’m actually starting again with a date in Seattle on November 10th. I’m excited about that, actually, more than anything else.
Now, in your bio Disney gave the press it says that your greatest achievement isn’t your career, but your marriage to your wife. How long has it been since you said ‘I do,’ and what do you think makes you and your wife one of the rare couples that can go the distance in this day and age– especially in Hollywood? ^ It’s been 31 years and the reason is because I live out of town. (Laughs) No seriously, it’s easy. If you met her you’d go, ‘Oh, I get it.’ We’ve been best friends since we were 17-years-old.
Both of your daughters are expressing an interest in the entertainment industry as well. Are you one of those parents who support their decision to enter the business, or are you secretly forbidding them to work in Hollywood? ^ No, Jenny is doing great and Lindsay is a budding director. She’s worked on several movies with me as a PA, she was an assistant editor on “61.” She’s a wonderful editor, which will make her a very good director.
So would you star in a film she was directing if she asked you to? ^ Yeah, if the part was good.
You mentioned that you no longer ‘have anything to prove anymore’ as far as your career goes. Does that apply to your real life scenario as well? Have you accomplished everything you’ve ever wanted? ^ No, I don’t have to prove anything to myself anymore about certain things. I constantly have to prove to myself that I can have fun doing different things. That’s the thing is to challenge yourself all the time. As far as the Oscars and all that other stuff, if it can be fun and it can be important — if I have something to say and they want me — I would definitely do it or consider doing it. I loved most every one of the seven shows that I did, but it’s a lot of work.
In Monsters, Inc you and John Goodman actually sing a duet on the soundtrack. Disney has a history of winning the Best Original Song category at the Oscars, so if your song was to get nominated, would you attend the show to sing it? ^ First of all, they would probably have Sting and Jon Lovitz doing it. I dunno, let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.
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Posted on November 10, 2001 in Interviews by
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