Sneak peek: Crystal's 'Parental Guidance'
Posted August 6, 2012
A sign that we are all getting older? Billy Crystal and Bette Midler are playing grandparents.
Back in the '80s, his Harry was busy meeting Sally, and she was Down and Out in Beverly Hills.
Now, the two comedy legends have finally teamed up as a married couple from Fresno who faces the prospect of babysitting three Atlanta-based grandkids for the first time in Parental Guidance, opening Christmas Day.
It was Crystal — who hasn't had a major film role since 2002's Analyze That because he was focusing on his one-man stage show, 700 Sundays— who came up with the idea based on his own life.
"It was after my daughter Jennifer left us with her two girls for five days," says the actor, 64, whose granddaughters are now 9 and 6. (There's also a 2½-year-old grandson, courtesy of his other daughter, Lindsay.)
He takes a pause before adding, "And on the sixth day, I rested."
He and several writers, including his City Slickers pals Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, fashioned the story of distant grandparents who see their visit as a way to mend past grievances with their daughter (Marisa Tomei). "It's just so good, so funny," says Crystal, who compares the humor in Parental Guidance to Ron Howard's multi-generational Parenthood from 1989.
The rabid Yankees fan even found a way to feature America's favorite pastime. "I've been working as a minor-league baseball announcer, and I get fired." Why? "I made the mistake of turning 60."
Even though Crystal and Midler had never worked together before, it didn't take long for them to feel like old friends. "She is a dream acting partner," Crystal raves. "There is a shorthand between us that makes it seem like I have known her forever. We are like a pair of old shoes. They just fit."
The feeling is mutual for Midler, 66, whose last truly notable hurrah on the big screen was in 1996's First Wives Club.
"I always wanted to work with Billy," she says. "He is a joy to be around. I actually always was envious of the movies he makes. I just love them. He is very inventive, a terrific improviser. It was time for me to be with a person like that. We are a couple of pros. Matched evenly."
However, Crystal has her beat when it comes to grandparent experience. Midler's look-alike 25-year-old daughter, Sophie, "is on the career path," she says of the Yale grad and sociology major. "She's smart, lovely, adorable, intrepid. She is acting now and still in school."
Nonetheless, her leading man provided plenty of anecdotes to fill her in. "He told me some things that curled my hair," she says with a shudder.
But if anyone knows that music has the power to soothe the beast in even the smallest human, it's the Divine Miss M. "I have a backlog of old songs that I loved to share with the kids," she says, referring to co-stars Bailee Madison, 12, Joshua Rush, 10, and Kyle Harrison Breitkopf, 7. "We would always sing novelty songs from the '50s on the set. Those are the ones that they liked."
That is how Crystal came up with the idea for a duet on-screen. "I rolled my eyes," says Midler. "But we did a good job."
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