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Billy Crystal: 'What I Know Now'

His latest comedy, 'Parental Guidance,' grew from personal experience as a loving grandad

With a new movie (Parental Guidance, see clip above) coming out on Dec. 25 and his memoir about turning 65 due next fall, Billy Crystal knows a hell of a lot about entertainment, publishing and paying attention to what life is trying to tell you. We asked him to share a few of his favorite takeaways.

Coming up with ideas for his comedy Parental Guidance was easy, Billy Crystal tells Allan Fallow: He just looked for inspiration from his own grandkids. (Listen to the interview below.)

Real Life Is Fertile Ground for Films 
The idea for Parental Guidance came from babysitting our two young granddaughters five years ago. Janice [his wife of 42 years] and I had them alone for the first time for five days. And on the sixth day, I rested. Then I went into the office and started talking about what we'd just been through: the old school versus the new school, trying to follow my daughter's rules for how to handle kids, knowing what to say, feeling out of step with basically being a parent again, and not overstepping those boundaries. All that became the juice of the movie.

Pater Familias Is an Easy Role to Play
I've got three grandkids now — Ella is 9, Dylan's 6, and Hudson's nearly 3 — and a fourth on the way. I love having them around me — they're wonderful young people — and it's great to be able to hand them back. And I like being called "Grandpa."

"Your" Story Ain't Always Your Own
All the executives involved in the development of Parental Guidance were trying to work out their problems in the script: "We need more about the father! We need more about the mother! You know what drives me nuts? It's when she …"

By the Time We Archived Woodstock, We Were 80 Million Strong
I'm thrilled we got to make Parental Guidance, but I wonder if studios want to make movies with people of our age. Yet look at the track record of all these movies now that are doing so well! There's almost 80 million of us out there who would like to see something about us.

Life Is a Big Canvas; Walk Softly and Carry a Small Brush
The trailer for Grampires with Helen Mirren and Rob Reiner was only four minutes, but it got, like, a million hits in a day on My tribute to Bob Hope [at the 2011 Oscars] was only two minutes. And I worked all of three days on Small Apartments, a really fun, dark murder mystery/comedy directed by Jonas Åkerlund. So I said, "You know? This is great! I can just paint in miniature!"

"Jokes Are for Older People"
I've never tried teaching my grandkids to tell a joke. They're all very funny in their own way — it's 'cause kids are — and you just want to let them be naturally adept. This weekend Hudson was with us — he's the little guy — and I heard this huge noise. I looked over and he went, "Ooh! Must be something I ate!" Then he got hysterical laughing and held up this whoopee cushion. I'm very much his grandfather.

Next page: George Burns as Billy's role model. »

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