San Anotonia News
Crystal, Midler true partnersBY MICHAEL ORDOÃ‘A : DECEMBER 24, 2012 : Updated: December 25, 2012 7:12pm
Lifelong baseball fan Billy Crystal didn’t have to research much for his role in “Parental Guidance” – he’s the announcer for a San Francisco Giants minor-league team. But for the only clip in the film showing the big club, did he have to choose one with eventual league MVP Buster Posey making an out?
“No,” hems and haws Crystal, “we couldn’t show â€¦”
“No, I improvised this thing, and he’s picking on me,” he protests, waving at the interviewer.
“Oh, I like that,” she says, with that famed cackle.
Strange as it seems, these two storied vets had not worked together until “Parental Guidance” – the new comedy about grandparents baby-sitting for a week for their stressed-out daughter (played by Marisa Tomei) and her husband (Tom Everett Scott).
“It just made sense. ‘Who do you want?’â€‰” Crystal makes a muffled nasal noise, indicating Midler with his thumb, “We had a dinner meeting, right away we felt married â€¦”
“Same tribe,” Midler interjects.
“See how she finishes my sentences?”
“We’re from the show-business tribe,” she slyly amends, and the riffing between these two old pros is under way.
“Ancient, we’re ancient! We’re a million!” Midler blurts out at the very mention of their long careers. Then she grins: “But we look fabulous.”
Surprisingly, Crystal ponies up with his “Fernando” character from the early ’80s: “â€‰’They look mahvelous!’â€‰”
And they do – fit, funny and very ready to take this show on the road.
“I went to an aging doctor: ‘You’re gonna live to be 150.’ I don’t know if I want to,” says Midler, sounding deadly serious. “I mean, 150, can you imagine? Instead of seeing the platform shoes three times, like 18 times!”
Crystal says they have known each other for “35, 40 years,” having met at the Improv in New York, to which Midler says, “I have no memory of it because I have no memory.”
“I used to open for Melissa Manchester, who was one of her original Harlettes. And over the years, Marc Shaiman, who did the beautiful score for this movie, kept going,” he mimes working a piano, “â€‰’Why don’t you two work together?’ – as he’s playing. And then it happened. And he did the score. So it was perfect.”
“Oh, I’m such a fan,” gushes Midler of her co-star and producer. “I’ve watched him from the very beginning. ‘Throw Momma from the Train,’ ‘The City Slickers,’ ‘Harry Met Sally,’ come on, help me out here.”
“â€‰’Beaches,'” he “helps,” and both laugh. “I always loved her because she was unique. She was one of the first performers to step up and go, ‘This is who I am’ and be dangerous, be bawdy. To deliver the joke with the timing of anybody and then break your heart with a ballad, and then be filthy funny – right in your face – I loved that.”
Midler was surprised to find how involved a producer Crystal was. He had shepherded the project through five years, two studios, a couple of writing teams, the writers’ strike and more.
“You really were in the trenches with the studio and all that,” she says as he nods his head gravely. “He was wearing two hats, and it was really stressful. He had to come on and be funny and then walk off the set and tear his hair out.”
“It’s a big responsibility,” he says. “I fought for this thing to get made for so long.”
Midler adds, “And to make a family picture, a $30 million picture in a sea of $150 million pictures, these tent-pole movies that have to sell overseas and make a billion dollars for these bottom-line people – I mean, we were really the little movie that could.”
The two reminisce about the freezing conditions in which they shot certain scenes because proper soundstages weren’t in the budget, then Midler unloads:
“I do wish there were more sense in the picture business. Because there are audiences that are shut out. When you showed this picture at the AARP convention, you got a standing ovation. People will say, ‘Who cares about them?’ Well, green is green. Money is money. There are 70 million â€¦”
“Seventy-seven million people, baby boomers,” he says.
“They’re not all playing X, X-Man, whatever it is.”
“X-Man,” Crystal relishes it, laughs heartily, and corrects: “X-Box.”
“X-Box, they’re not all playing X-Box,” shrugs the Grammy, Emmy and Tony winner.
“But it was really an eye opener because we get down there for the AARP convention â€¦,” he starts.
“I didn’t go. I’m not identified with those people,” she says, with faux haughtiness.
“We had 3,000 people – Fox made this beautiful movie theater out of a convention hall. It was like a rock concert. Anyone who could stand, stood,” he says, with a smile. “And we followed Paul Ryan,” Midler cackles as he continues, “who had made that infamous ‘We’re gonna take down Medicare’ ‘Boo, boo!’ ‘What about my penicillin?’ ‘(bleep) you!’ ‘Boo, boo!’
“They’re an audience out there who wants something. So I’m glad we were able to deliver something for them. And their kids. And their kids.”
Which winds back nicely to the nut of the movie: the clash of parenting styles over generations. The idea came from a real-life baby-sitting experience Crystal and wife Janice had with their grandkids.
“We had, like, six days. With that came the list of things to do. And not do. ‘Don’t say this, don’t say that. If she says this, don’t say that. Don’t take them here, don’t let them near this.’ It was a bible of things to follow. So we did this for six days, and on the seventh day â€¦” he tosses the softball:
“He rested,” says Midler, whacking it for a base hit.
“See? She knows me by now,” says Crystal, with a grin.