After hosting the Oscars for the umpteenth time, Billy Crystal returns to the big screen in the family comedy Parental Guidance. In the film he plays Artie Decker, who along with his wife Diane (Bette Midler), decides to babysit their three grandkids when their parents (played by Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott) go on vacation. What results is a loving yet messy collision of old school parenting and 21st century children, and it proves to be as heartwarming as it is funny.
Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Marisa Tomei, who plays their daughter Alice, recently appeared for the Parental Guidance press conference which was held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. While there, they took the time to talk about their experience making the film as well as the guidance they got from their own parents.
Check it out below.
We Got This Covered: You and Bette work so well together in this movie.
Billy Crystal: Well thank you. We all had a great time together. The funny thing is the three of us were attached in some way to do this thing together, and the fact that it happened this way was great. We’ve known each other for so long, and our careers are quite compatible with each other. When I did Soap I wore a lot of the outfits that Bette wore, and when this came down it just felt natural. When Andy Fickman (the movie’s director) and I, once we knew we were making it, said “who’s going to be Diane?” And we went “Bette.” So we called and had a dinner meeting with her the next night, and as soon as she sat down we were married. She ate off my plate, she wouldn’t let me drive, stuff like that so it felt great.
Marisa and I had met in 1991 when she came in to read with me and for me on Mr. Saturday Night to play my wife. She was an amazing actress but she was just too young at that point for that particular part. When we called her about this, the first thing she said was…
Marisa Tomei: Now I’m too old, huh? (laughs)
Billy Crystal: So we’re all together in this wonderful, meant-to-be situation and can say “okay now we did it,” and people are liking it and that’s great.
We Got This Covered: Billy and Bette, you got a chance to sing in this movie. What was that like?
Billy Crystal: We sang for the kids. During the course of the shooting we would sing for the kids to keep them occupied sometimes because they get bored or their minds wander. We were in a subway in Atlanta that had great echoes, and that was where doo-wop was born; in high school bathrooms because the echo was good. So we just starting singing Charlie Brown…
Bette Midler: Poison Ivy…
Billy Crystal: Poison Ivy, Yakety Yak, those kind of great old songs. And then I turned to Bette and said “let’s find a place to sing together in the movie.” She didn’t want to do it right away because you were worried it would seem like it’s Bette Midler time…
Bette Midler: I thought it would break the truth of the character, but we had a great time in Atlanta. We were supposed to be shooting in the summer and they pushed it back so we were shooting in the winter. We were all really cold the whole time because we were wearing these light summer clothes. One of the challenges was to keep warm, and then we had a tornado watch and we had episodes where we had to be out at night in the rain and doing rain shoots. So it was challenging that way but it was always so much fun because of that director and of course Billy too.
Andy Fickman is a really cheerful soul, he has a very upbeat spirit and he is known for wrangling kids and for making these wonderful movies for and with children. So we were really lucky to get him and he runs this happy, upbeat kind of a set, and that’s so rare in our business. It’s usually like “oh god don’t make me leave the trailer!” But this wasn’t like that because he was all “let me at ‘em!” So it was great, I really enjoyed it.
We Got This Covered: Can you talk a little more about filming with the kids?
Marisa Tomei: After the Chinese Restaurant scene where we all kind of chimed in for the kids cause we were trying to help them get focused and a get a rhythm with the whole family, we realized that we would have only Andy speak to them in terms of that kind of thing. We were confusing them. Basically they were very enthusiastic and we loved them and they were so smart, but we needed one (person directing them) and Andy did that so well. For me I just found my moments and time with each of them. But you (Billy) knew one of them…
Billy Crystal: I knew Joshua (Rush who plays Turner). When we had our first reading of the script at Fox two years ago, Josh came in to audition and there’s “The Shot Heard Around The World” speech which is something I particularly loved and had put in the script and thought “where are we gonna find somebody who’s going to be able to do this? They’re out there.” And he came in and I tried to explain it to him and he goes “I got it. I Googled it” (laughs) and he nailed it. He just did it for me in the office and I was like “oh my god” and then he said “would you like to hear it in Spanish?” So he did it in Spanish, and he’s so smart and gentle and gets it. He was the only one besides me who was the original member of the cast which he loves to say. He did this reading in front of all these executives and the script was not as good as it ended up being, and we came to that third act moment when he does what we now call “The Kid’s Speech” and he just nailed it and Tom Rothman was crying because it is such a powerful moment in the movie.
Kyle (Harrison Breitkopf who plays Barker) we found in a commercial that was sent to us from Canada, and he’s a 5-year old 35-year old. He has the ability to hear it and spit it right back out at you. For instance when I’m trying to get him out of the car seat, Andy and I would just give him lines and he would just look at you and say “got it.” Then I suggest another one-liner to him and he said “I don’t think so” (laughs).
We Got This Covered: Marisa what was it like for you filming the scene with the cake?
Marisa Tomei: The cake all over my face was such a fun scene. I had such a good time with that. I always wanted to have a cake planted in my face and Billy made my dream come true (laughs). It was a fun day and we were excited about it altogether. Then after a while, just like real cake, you start crashing and get a little crazy. It was a lot of timing and we really had to work out the timing of how it was going to flip right exactly onto my face.
Actually the first time that we did it we were really worried because as you can imagine once you get it all in your hair and everything, you have to wash it and get back on the set which takes a lot of time. We were hoping to aim it just exactly right but when I pulled that cake, and the boys were underneath and Bailee (Madison who plays Harper) was sitting on the counter, it flipped right over my head and didn’t touch me at all and landed right on the refrigerator (laughs)!
Billy Crystal: It was like the strangest thing because everyone was ready and waiting, and it missed! It was hilarious.
We Got This Covered: Billy can you tell us more about the opening scene where you’re fired and the guy is talking to you about Facebook and Twitter.
Billy Crystal: That scene was all improvised. The scene was always really good. The young actor (Corey James Wright) who I played it against, I couldn’t keep a straight face. He was so funny to me, and he was always on this thing about this and I said “talk to me about that. Ask me a million questions about it.” And I said “just keep shooting Andy and listen to him because he’s really funny.” I told him “just kill me about Facebook, kill me about Twitter, kill me about hash tags, kill me about everything.” It turned out to be funny and it places Artie in a world he can’t possibly live in.
We Got This Covered: Can you talk about one piece of parental guidance from your own lives that have stuck with you to this day?
Marisa Tomei: I never got an exact thing like a sit down or that type of guidance. Well, my dad did really put in a lot of time into teaching me to lindy (laughs), and somehow in that time of partner dancing he thought it was really important that I partner danced. That will definitely stay with me the rest of my life because it’s a really good skill (laughs).
Billy Crystal: That’s a great one.
Bette Midler: Yeah and in teaching you the lindy, he showed you that he loved you. He paid attention to you and he spent time with you so that’s a big deal.
Marisa Tomei: Yeah.
Bette Midler: I didn’t get any guidance either except “be a nurse or be a teacher, don’t go into show business.” Those were the only jobs available to women in those days, and the actresses were like tramps and all that kind of thing. My dad was very conservative.
Billy Crystal: My dad died when I was 15 and worked way too much. I was raised mostly by my mom. So when I was about 21 and just about to get out of college at NYU, Vietnam was raging and I was a frustrated musician for a little bit. She said “you should really take clarinet lessons again so in case you get drafted you can play in the band in the army” (laughs). Today would have been her 97th birthday so I was just thinking about that so that’s a good omen.
That concludes our interview but be sure to check out Parental Guidance, now in theatres.