Billy Crystal has made his name in the entertainment industry with films like When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers and Analyze This, among others. He’s also one of the most successful hosts of the Academy Awards, a role he’s held nine times.
In 2001 Crystal made waves in the animation genre and attracted a new and younger audience after voicing Mike Wazowski in Pixar’s Monsters, Inc., a film that went on to earn rave reviews and gross over $500 million worldwide.
Now, 12 years later, Crystal returns to reprise what he calls his “favorite role” in Dan Scanlon’s Monsters University, a prequel to Monsters, Inc. The film sees our two protagonists, Mike and Sulley attending the titular institute of education where they learn to become “scarers,” which turns out to be a more difficult task than they originally thought.
This week, Crystal stopped by Toronto to do a press conference for the film and we were lucky enough to be in attendance to hear what the actor had to say. He discussed what it was like coming back to this role after 12 years, how difficult it is doing comedy in an animated film, why he loves the character and much more.
Check it out below.
You’ve said before that you really identify with Mike Wazowski in a lot of ways.
Billy Crystal: I love this guy! I think this is my most favourite character that I’ve ever played in anything but I just don’t know what it is about him. Well, actually, I do know. He has such a great personality. I love that he always stands up for himself. I love that he’s forever positive. I love how when something gets in his way he always goes over it, around it or through it and he always comes out on the other side. Every picture of him that gets taken it’s always just the top of his head. He doesn’t even see it as a set back on his college ID or in the first film when he’s on the cover of a magazine and he’s barely there. I love that. He’s a positive guy! I love that he’s a leader of monsters. I love that he has a great sense of humour, and that he stands up for himself, and I love that he’s cranky, too. I think that’s great!
One of the biggest themes in the movie is that Mike is constantly being told that he isn’t scary, and that he doesn’t have “it,” and that’s something that I’m sure comics at the same point in their lives get a lot…
Billy Crystal: Which is something that always keeps happening to us, really.
…Is that something that triggered any sort of flashbacks or memories to your early career?
Billy Crystal: Oh yeah! I get those flashbacks all the time. I don’t even have to flash that far back. People are always telling you you’re done. Someone’s always telling you that, especially now in the day of social media. There used to be that you only had four or five critics that you would look to for intelligent conversation, but now there are millions of people who can just press send, and everyone’s got an opinion even if no one cares what they say. It makes things a little bit tougher.
What scares you?
Billy Crystal: Oh boy. This could get dark. But, actually, the dark still scares me. But it’s not just the dark of a room, it’s just the dark of the dark. You know what I’m saying? Well, if you’re Jewish, you definitely know what I’m saying. It’s the unknown. Time scares me. Having enough time to do all the things that I want to do in life just even in terms of forgetting about the business I’m in. There are all these things I want to accomplish. We never know how long we’re going to get.
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