Movies, Books & Disney+

John Goodman & Billy Crystal Talk “Monsters University” and Following Dreams

Billy Crystal and John Goodman spoke to the press at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons Hotel about their upcoming Disney-Pixar film Monsters University, which opens on June 21, 2013. We were invited to the press conference, which lasted for 20 minutes and was a lively experience! We have video of the press conference at the end of the article.

With the Monsters University backdrop in the background, Crystal (who plays Mike Wazowski) and Goodman (who plays James P. “Sulley” Sullivan) sat down, looking relaxed and joking with the reporters in the audience. There is an obvious affection for each other and for the characters they play, as you’ll see in this article and the video. When they discuss Sulley’s fur in the first film – it really was groundbreaking, and something I remember…fur moving in a realistic way. It’s hard to believe that it was such a big deal 10 years ago!

The first question asked was about working with director Dan Scanlon. Pete Doctor had written and directed the original Monsters, Inc. Crystal replied, “Dan is a hipster. Dan is like a…he had a totally different attitude than Pete Doctor had, who was great. Dan is different, he’s like a hipster. Young guy. Goodman interjected, “He had great sensibility, and he’d read with you if the other characters weren’t there. He’s got a good energy to feed off of”.

Asked about what resonated with Crystal and Goodman about their characters, Goodman replied to laughter, “The fact that he’s a blowhard.” Joking aside, he elaborated, “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 to make him complete, let the air out of him a little bit. Especially in this film, they aren’t completely formed monsters yet – they learn from each other, they learn to adapt, let go of their preconceived notions of themselves of themselves and the world”. Crystal continued, “For me, Mike is fearless. He’s really the favorite character I’ve played in anything I’ve ever done. I’d really missed doing him, until Lasseter came up to me – it was 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 (laughter). But he left an idea, and I thought ‘Oh, this is going to be great!'”

Talking about his own college experience, Crystal said, “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. I made a few films on my own, and I loved it, but…(slowly shaking head), I felt like I was a misfit in a way because all of those other people…there was Oliver Stone, Christopher Guest, Mike McKean. It was a class of film people. Our professor was Marty Scorcese. Marty was a graduate student…Mr. Scorcese, which is what I had to call him, which I still do when I see him, because he gave me a C (laughter). He was an intense…it was 1968, 69 and 70…he was an intense guy, with hair down to here (Crystal’s hands lift to the chest, below the shoulders) with a big beard and grainy glasses. Who looked like that back then? (Waiting for laughter to subside) I wanted to be in front of people still, so I was a little out of it.

Goodman came from a different direction, joking “I never been in no college with famous people like that (more laughter). I was a drifter for a while (getting serious), 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 and the theater department, and then it just…everything fell into place, and I had a passion about something. Then I started living my life.” Crystal interjected, “That is 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, and I still see a lot of those people to this day…because they owe me money (laughter). That really becomes your thing…and in this movie they (Mike and Sulley) find out who they are. That is the most important element of this movie to me. Mike has a dream and it might not work out, and he has to readjust and re-calibrate and he does that with the help of his friend, who tells him who he thinks he is, and he (Sulley) starts to believe it himself.”

Goodman and Crystal took on a question regarding what the differences working with Pixar 10 years ago and now were. Goodman began, “Before, we were talking about…Billy was talking about, we were just flabbergasted by the fact that they could animate fur, and animate hair. It was a big deal then. It just seems like. you know, they’ve gotten so much better with their technique. It’s constantly amazing. The thrill is still there, because there are such wonderful storytellers, great writers, and everything is reality based and grounded. So you can believe in it, and it makes it fun.” Crystal took over, “The difference was that it may be a little bit faster, so they can do things a little bit quicker (Goodman agrees). 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. The imagery is phenomenal. The art design on the first movie was astounding, with the door sequence and the chase sequence. There are moments in the Scare Games that…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.”

Crystal and Goodman spoke for a full 20 minutes, you can see the entire press conference below. I haven’t seen the movie yet, and didn’t find any major spoilers. Monsters University has had great word of mouth so far, I can’t wait to see it for myself!

Thank you to Paul Barrie from Window to the Magic for attending and videotaping the press conference for us! And check out this final trailer for Monsters University!