Miracle Max. Harry Burns. Mitch Robbins. We all have the tendency to associate actor Billy Crystal with one of his many memorable onscreen incarnations. We can quote all of his one-liners from When Harry Met Sally… and still laugh at his countless Saturday Night Live highlights. But to a much, much younger generation, Crystal is simply Mike Wazowski — the round, green, one-eyed monster who stars in Monsters Inc. and the upcoming Disney-Pixar prequel, Monsters University.
So it seems only fitting that the first topic discussed at this morning’s Monsters University press conference at Toronto’s Park Hyatt Hotel started off with a casual conversation about his four grandkids, the youngest of which is only three months old.
“The girls are 10 and seven and the little guy is three-and-a-half. I had to explain what I did for a living and I showed them Monsters, Inc. — because I couldn’t show them the orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally… (laughs). I had to be Mike Wazowski every time I saw them for about a year after that. I was Grandpa Mike and I could only talk like him. But now they’ve seen me on billboards for the Oscars and they’re used to it. They came to see (the 2012 family movie) Parental Guidance and my seven-year-old granddaughter said to my daughter, “Mom, do people know Grandma is married to Billy Crystal?” (laughs)
With regards to the much-anticipated Monsters University prequel, Crystal professed his strong connection to his little monster of a character. “I love this guy! I actually think this is my most favourite character I’ve ever played. I love his personality and that he stands up for himself and is forever positive. I love that he’s a leader of monsters and, while he has a great sense of humour, he can still be cranky.”
After having played a monster in two films now, Crystal revealed some of his own personal fears. “This could get a little dark (laughs)… and the dark still scares me. I’m afraid of the unknown — I want to get to really know my little ones (grandkids) and we never know how much time we’ve got.”
Crystal added, in his typical deadpan manner: “I was more scared at 25. I didn’t know where I was going — and I think I know where I’ve been.”
When yours truly gathered up enough courage to ask Crystal about his burgeoning young fanbase, the actor revealed that most kids recognize him as Artie Decker — the frazzled grandpa in Parental Guidance. Crystal says he’s commonly referred to as “Farty” by his young fans — a not-so-affectionate nickname bestowed on his character in the film. But when it comes to Monsters, Inc., most kids under the age of 10 meet the revelation that he plays Mike Wazowski with a puzzled look. “Kids can’t determine the difference,” he says. “They buy movies as the real deal.”
But after decades spent in show business, Crystal is just happy to keep people entertained and credits the ongoing support of his fans as the reason behind his success. “It’s always comforting to know that someone wants to see you.”
Monsters University hits theatres this Friday, June 21, 2013 across North America. You can also check out our gallery of this summer’s family-friendly movies!