I Don’t Wanna Play A Grandma!

New York Daily News
Billy Crystal and Bette Midler team up to play grandparents with a mission in ‘Parental Guidance’
MONDAY, DECEMBER 24, 2012, 6:00 AM

There are few things more amusing than the thought of Billy Crystal and Bette Midler pairing up to play grandparents for their new comedy. But Midler didn’t find it funny.

“I was totally offended,” says Midler, who co-stars with Crystal in “Parental Guidance,” hitting theaters Christmas Day. “I didn’t think grandmother parts would come so soon! But I was up for playing a fun grandma.”

The iconic New York actor-comedians play a California couple who fly to Atlanta on short notice to babysit their grandkids.

While 67-year-old Midler, who was born in Hawaii but is a longtime New Yorker, doesn’t have grandchildren of her own, Crystal does.

“I have 3 and 2/3 of a grandkid,” says the 64-year-old who grew up on Long Island. “The last one is due in March.

“I created the movie from real experiences with my grandkids,” adds Crystal, who also produced the film. “I am a grandpa – you can’t try to hide this stuff. I embraced it. I earned it.”

The proud grandfather happens to be competing against himself for the tot crowd with the 3D rerelease last week of “Monsters Inc.”

As for Midler, she’s not totally against the idea of being a grandma one day.

Grandparents are not quite the same as they used to be,” she says. “People are fighting tooth and nail to stay fit.”

In the meantime, she’s still getting used to starring as one.

Daily News: You two have never worked together before, but your paths must’ve crossed many times over the years. Any memorable encounters?

Billy Crystal: We spent an evening together watching the Academy Awards at [composer] Marc Shaiman’s house. We had a lot of fun. It was a really nice eight-hour party. DN: What made you want to work together now?

Crystal: Every time I’ve seen Bette over the years, it was always a lot of laughs and it was always too short of a time. And when this movie presented itself, we called her. We met, and I knew it was perfect right away.

DN: You said you felt like a married couple, Billy. Do you agree, Bette?

Bette Midler: I felt very connected to him. Sometimes co-stars try to intimidate you, so their performance will be better than yours, and Billy’s not that kind of guy.

DN: Neither of you have done a lot of movies lately. Is that by choice?

Crystal: For me, I was doing my one-man show “700 Sundays,” and touring with it, and that was pretty much my focus for about four years.

I didn’t care if I made another movie. I was having too good of a time with that. And that was becoming my life and in between the tours, I needed to rest.

Then I started developing this movie. Each time we were getting closer to making it, I would turn something down – “I can’t do that, we’re going to make this.” And here it is all these years later, but it was worth the wait.

DN: Marisa Tomei plays your daughter. What was it like to play her parents?

Crystal: She had a different energy from us, which was perfect in that it’s a form of rejection of who we are.

DN: Brooklyn Dodgers vet Ralph Branca pops up in a scene when one of your grandkids recites the famous “The Giants win the pennant!” call from the 1951 game where he was the losing pitcher. How’d that happen?

Crystal: I was taping a special with Bob Costas at MLB Network, and Ralph was in the building. I told him what we were doing, and his first reaction was, ”˜Great, now I have to hear that quote from a 7-year-old?’ But he’s a charming guy.

DN: You both have New York roots. How did your experiences in New York shape you as performers?

Crystal: I grew up in the New York scene. To have people line up in The Village in the footsteps of (Bill) Cosby and Woody (Allen) and (Richard) Pryor and all those that came before you – it’s great excitement. I was at Madison Square Garden the other night for the concert for Sandy relief, and it was still a thrilling experience to be there and feel New York pulling together.

Midler: I started out at a time that was very exciting to be in New York, even though the town eventually crumbled in the ’70s. But the performing life was so vibrant, and everyone was so full of energy. It was a great time to be coming up and to make your mark.

I see Whoopi Goldberg from time to time, and she says, “I don’t think I would have made it today.’ In a funny way, I don’t think I could have gone up against what the kids have to do today, either. But I had my turn, and I’m glad I did it in New York.

DN: Billy, you’re on Bette’s turf when you sing a duet of “The Book of Love.” Was that intimidating?

Crystal: Yeah, I was very nervous about singing with Bette. But I wanted to, because I thought it was something really special for the movie. It was great fun to do a duet with her and try to stay in tune. I’m like a violin.

DN: A lot of the humor in the film is about parenting styles from different generations. You both raised kids. Were you old-school or new-school about it?

Crystal: I’m a little bit of both. We were progressive parents, and I tended to be more conservative than my wife, but that happens with fathers and daughters.

Daily News: What about you, Bette? I would think having Bette Midler as a mom would be pretty cool.

Midler: Actually … no. My husband [German artist Martin Van Haselberg] is the free spirit, and I was a more conservative parent. I was concerned with ethics, and he was more interested in art and good food, and teaching our daughter about wine.

Crystal: You let her have wine as a child?

Midler: In Europe! They give them a little sip of wine with a meal. It’s no big deal.

Crystal: Because I encouraged my kids not to whine.

Midler: Oh, whining! I see.

Crystal: The only time I had wine was at my circumcision. They put some wine on some gauze and the baby bites into it. It’s a trick.

DN : Does the Academy have you on speed dial in case “Family Guy” creator and new Oscar host Seth MacFarlane says something offensive and you have to step in, like you did last year, Billy?

Crystal: No, not this time.

DN: What do you think of Seth as the host?

Crystal: I think he’ll do a good job. He’s funny, he can sing, he’s got a very interesting mind. And I wish him well. It’s a hard job, and I hope he does great.

DN: Billy, your hometown of Long Beach was hit hard by Sandy. You screened “Parental Guidance” for the people there. How was that experience?

Crystal: It was very emotional. I was born in New York City, lived in the Bronx for three or four years, but Long Beach was my hometown. It was like seeing somebody you love get beaten up, so I had this idea: The theater is demolished, but the city of Lynbrook opened its arms and we had 2,500 people come on buses to the theater there. It was really something.

I haven’t lived in Long Beach since 1976, but in a way I never left. I’ll do whatever I can to help get that town back up on its feet.


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