Interview: Billy Crystal discusses Monsters University
Mike Wazowski is back in all his green glory, and Billy Crystal, who returns 10-plus years later to voice the spherical one-eyed monster, finds much to rejoice about.
“I actually think this is my most favourite character I’ve played in anything,” said Crystal during a press conference in Toronto ahead of the release of Monsters University. “I love his personality, I love that she stands up for himself. He is forever positive; when something gets in his way he either goes over it, around it, or through it and somehow comes out the other side.”
“I love that he is a leader of monsters, I love he has a great sense of humour, and I love that he’s cranky too. I think that’s great.”
A prequel to Monsters, Inc. of 2001, this collegiate level installment of the Disney-Pixar tells the story of when Mike met Sulley, as it were. Both are looking to be scarers, but Mike, cute, cuddly, and cranky as Crystal mentioned, is faced with limitations that may or may not be out of his control. Sulley meanwhile, comes from a family of scary monsters, and his imposing presence, sharp teeth, and massive claws see him the right genetic wheelhouse for being terrifying.
Mike is told everywhere he goes, from peers to teachers to the headmaster, that he won’t be a scarer. “You’re watching a hard drive, and you’re falling for these kids, because they are at the tender age of 17 or 18,” says Crystal. “We’ve all been there. You’re making the decisions in your life that are most important to some path you may follow. You have to be ready for disappointment, not everything works out for perfectly for everybody, but you always have perfect dreams.”
“When that happens, when it doesn’t work out, it’s a test for any man or monster or woman.”
Putting the familiar characters back in school, where enthusiasm and idealism start to meet with the hard realities of adult hood, was a concept Crystal loved instantly. “What a great place tp put them in at that age of decision making that informs who you are.”
As we know from the first movie, Mike and Sulley become friends and work together, but the path is rocky at best. The two form the heart of the movie, despite an early rivalry that pits Mike’s studious nature against Sulley the slacker. Crystal insisted when recording that he and John Goodman, the voice of Sulley, be together, in order to enhance the bond between the characters.
“It just seemed natural,” he explains. “The funny moments have a great repartee because we’re with each other, and the tender moments are made heartbreaking. You’re watching a hard drive.”
Mike, ever-dedicated, comes a long way in a film about following your dreams, working hard, and being accepting of not only who you are, but who you are not. “I think it’s a great message,” says Crystal. “These guys screw up..but they land on their claws.”