One of the pleasures of doing what I do for a living is the opportunity to meet people whose work has meant something to me over the course of my life as a film fan, and at this point, I feel like I've met a lot of biggest names on the list.
Until I was invited to the "Monsters University" press day, I didn't realize how much I wanted to meet Billy Crystal, but once it was on my agenda, I got excited about it. One of the shows that I love the most from the '70s was "Soap," and every five or six years, I revisit the series and fall in love with it all over again. There are a number of reasons to adore the series, but one of the most significant things about it was the character Crystal played. At a time when gay culture was basically just a punchline for the mainstream, Jodie Dallas was allowed to be witty and sharp and decent and way more than just a joke. Crystal's career could have ended there, but he somehow managed to avoid getting labeled or typecast.
His years on "Saturday Night Live" were interesting, and part of a very specific era in that show's history. It was essential, though, and managed to kick off a new movement in his film career. "Running Scared," "The Princess Bride," and "Throw Momma From The Train" all gave him a great showcase for his comic abilities, and the collaboration with Rob Reiner led to the film that will most likely always define Crystal, "When Harry Met Sally."
Like many actors, his filmography is hit and miss, and for every "City Slickers," there's a "Father's Day." He could easily have aged out of his window of opportunity if not for Pixar. His work in "Monsters Inc." in 2001 is hilarious and sincere, and he and John Goodman made a wonderful team. When I sat down with him at Pixar, the first question I had for him was about the recording process. For many animated films, they record each role separately to make sure it's clean and they can edit with it, but Crystal insisted on being able to record with Goodman, and it shows in the connection they have as performers and as characters.
My chat with him was way too short, but it was a lovely highlight of the trip to Pixar, and it's one of my favorites of this type of interview so far this year.
"Monsters University" is open for enrollment this Friday in theaters everywhere.
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
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