14 June 2013 863 Views

“Monsters University” Interview: Billy Crystal & John Goodman’s Return To Pixar, Mike & Sully’s Friendship, And Ditching School

by Michael Lee

Monsters University Header

Despite their differences in stature, scaring ability, and school work ethic, the Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman) have a lot more in common than they think. Monsters University, Pixar’s first prequel, centers on Pixar’s two favorite monsters’ academic years and how their rivalry ultimately formed a great friendship. During the press conference the two talked about what it was like to come back to Pixar Studios, record their voices together, what it was like to hear Helen Mirren play as a creepy college dean, and reminisce about their days in college. Hit the jump for more.

The press confrence kicked off with the two actors talking about what it was like to work with Dan Scanlon, director of Monsters University:

Billy Crystal: Dan is a hipster. Dan is like – he had totally different energy than Pete Docter had, who was great. Dan is like a cool – not that Pete wasn’t, but Dan is different. Dan is like – he’s a hipster. He’s like a –

JOHN GOODMAN: He had great sensibility, and he’d read with you. If the other characters weren’t there, he reads with you. He’s got a good energy to feed off of.

BILLY CRYSTAL: Yeah, he was funny, too. He’s a funny guy.

JOHN GOODMAN: And when you do something he don’t like, he gets a funny little look on his face.

BILLY CRYSTAL: Yeah, and we’d know not to do that.

BILLY CRYSTAL: Yeah, I like Dan a lot.

The two then talked about what about their respective characters resonated with them the most.

Goodman: The fact that he’s a blowhard. No, I think the reason they work so well together is that they complete each other, in a way. I think Sulley really, really needs Mike Wazowski. It makes him complete, lets him know – lets the air out of him a little bit. Especially in this film, when they’re not completely formed monsters yet, they learn from each other. They learn how to adapt, how to let go of their pre-conceived notions of themselves and of the world. They’re good for each other.

Crystal : For me, Mike is fearless. He just – he’s really the favorite character I’ve ever played in anything I’ve done. I’ve really missed doing him until Lasseter, at a party, came to me – it was at John’s 50th birthday party – and said we have the idea. It’s a sequel, but it’s a prequel. They’re in college. And he just walked away, but he left an idea, and I went oh, this is gonna be great. It was so fun to revisit them at this time in their lives. It was such a brilliant idea to put them in that time period where they’re about to become who they’re gonna become. That’s what was so interesting to me. I love this guy to play, and playing it with John is phenomenal because we work together in the studio, and we can act together. It’s not just – we’re not just reading lines; we’re performing them, and we’re playing them, and we feel them. I think that’s why their relationship on screen is really great because it’s a real thing.

Everyone has gone to school at one point of their lives, and you were either the good student who never missed a day and turn in your homework on time or the trouble maker who constantly pulled pranks.  When asked what either of them were like when they were in college, the two said:

Crystal: I have to admit, I was a little bit of a misfit. I was a film-directing major at NYU when – I’m still not sure why I became a directing major when I was really an actor and a comedian, but there was something that drew me to doing that. I had made a few films on my own, and I loved it. So I felt like I was a misfit, in a way, and out of it because all those other people – it was Oliver Stone, Christopher Guest, Mike McKean. It was a class of film people. Our professor was Marty Scorsese. So he – Marty was a graduate student – Mr. Scorsese, which is what I had to call him – which I still do, when I see him, ‘cause he gave me a C.

He was an intense – it was 1968-9 and ’70, and he was an intense guy, with hair down to here, a big beard and granny glasses. Who liked like that then? So I – he was so fluent in movies and passionate, and I really felt like I wanted to be in front of people still, so I was a little out of it.

Goodman: I ain’t never been in no college with famous people like Billy here. I was a drifter for a while. I just was desperate to fit in with a group. Really, I was swimming. I was lost, treading water, trying to find my way. I wanted to play football. It didn’t work out. I didn’t really know what I wanted until I found acting in a theater department, and then it just – everything fell into place, and I had a passion about something. Then, I started living my life.
Crystal: Yeah, that’s how it was for me, too. Once I found a theater group, then you’re just – like a gym rat, but you’re a theater rat, and then that becomes your fraternity house. That becomes your family – extended family. I still see a lot of those people to this day because they owe me money. No, that really becomes your thing. In this movie, they find out who they are. That’s the most important element of this movie to me is well, Mike has a dream, and the dream may not work out, and then he has to readjust and recalibrate. He does that with the help of his friend, who tells him who he thinks he is, and he starts to believe it himself. So for me, that really happened then.

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It has been almost ten years since Crystal and Goodman voiced Mike and Sully, and although some things may have changed over at the Pixar offices, the two talked about what it was like to step foot into the animation ten years after they recorded their voices for Monsters Inc.

Goodman: Before, we were talking – Billy was talking about – we were just flabbergasted by the fact that they could animate fur –

Crystal: On the first one.

Goodman: – and animate hair. That was a big deal then. It just seems like they’ve gotten so much better with their technique. It’s constantly amazing. So the thrill is still there because they’re such wonderful storytellers, great writers, and everything is reality-based and grounded, so you can believe in it, and it makes it fun.

Crystal: The difference was it’s maybe a little bit faster than before. They can do things a little quicker.  But the imagination is even broader because they can do even more. I first saw the movie two weeks ago, and I was – sometimes, you just forget what you’ve done. Because we started about two years ago, I guess, and the imagery is phenomenal in this movie. The art design on the first movie was astounding, with the door sequence and the chase sequence. This has moments in the scare games that are – you almost take it for granted, but it took years for them to think these things through. The fact that they can do it – that obstacle course is a phenomenal segment.  Then little things, like the dramatic scene with us at the lake, when Mike goes into the real world at the camp and is not scary – when he’s at the lake, that’s – we acted that scene together in the booth. For a movie to have room for those two segments alone is kinda epic, I think.

The two then talked about what scared them the most when they were younger:

Crystal:  My Aunt Sheila was terrifying because there was the napkin in the mouth, you’ve got something on your face, dear – that thing.  Let me just scratch that off your face.

Goodman: [LAUGHING] Earl Scheib.

Crystal: Let me sand your cheek.  I still don’t love the darkness, though I’ve learned to smile in it a little bit now and then.  I’m just sorta – the unknown has always been a little scary when you think about those things, especially as you get older.  Boy, that got heavy.

Goodman: Yeah.  I was just run-of-the-mill Frankenstein.

Frankenstein?

Goodman: Yeah, scared the heck out of me.

Crystal: Oh, and then when Psycho came out.

Goodman: But I love those movies.  I love those old Universal movies, especially when they’d switch off and Bela Lugosi would play Frankenstein.

Although Crystal and Goodman didn’t get a chance to voice together with Helen Mirren, the two shared their thoughts on her participation in the film:

Crystal Well, she’s aristocracy.  She is Dame Helen, and she’s – I wish we also had been around her when she was working.  She’s just fantastic.  She gets it.  She gets the – she’s a great actress, so it’s easy.  She commands – even in a strangely animated woman – a dragon, whatever she is – there’s a regalness to her, and her voice is perfect.  It was great casting.

Monsters University opens in theaters and 3D nationwide on June 21. Be sure to check back here on Monday for the full review of the film.



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