Along with the likes of Donald Sutherland, John Goodman and Patrick Stewart, Billy Crystal is one of a number of Hollywood notaries who, despite their esteemed careers, have never been nominated for an Oscar. Crystal believes he came close a couple of times, first for 1989’s When Harry Met Sally, then with City Slickers two years later.
“I was mad at myself for getting sucked into it [the hype],” says Crystal, who’s in town promoting his latest film Parental Guidance, a comedy in which a couple collide with their daughter over how to bring up the grandkids.
“I hope some day I’m worthy to be even thought about, but it’s not a great goal of mine,” he says, chuckling.
Unlike his fellow alumni, however, Crystal has hosted the Academy Awards no less than nine times, earning plaudits for his comedic opening medleys, skits and film montages.
“It’s like waking up with someone you don’t want to wake up with every day,” says 64-year-old Crystal on preparing for a ceremony that’s watched by a global audience of one billion.
“And because you’re working right through the show and re-writing as it’s going, that’s a bunch of months of pressure,” he adds in his native New York twang.
Crystal studied TV and film direction under Martin Scorsese at New York University before trying his hand at stand-up.
“I remember when Lord Of The Rings swept everything and the show got dull - because they were winning everything - and they blamed me! It’s always the host’s fault and it’s not fair!”
Next year’s ceremony will be hosted by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, who Crystal describes as “an auteur” - but would he helm the event once more if asked?
“To say I did it 10 times to round it off? I don’t know,” he muses. “If they wanted me back and I felt I had something new I could do. It’s a lot of work but a fun night.”
Affable as Crystal is, you sense his frustration at a certain lack of freedom - not only at recent Oscars but while filming Parental Guidance.
“There are more and more people involved in the process than ever before and I really hated that,” he says.
In Parental Guidance, Crystal plays Artie, a grumpy baseball fan who’s married to Diane, played by Hollywood legend Bette Midler.
“Bette and I have known each other for a long time but we’ve never worked with each other, which everyone seems to think is odd. I kinda think that’s good because it seems like a natural combination.”
He recalls setting up a dinner meeting to discuss the film - “it was like we were married,” Crystal says, laughing.
“She ate off my plate, she wouldn’t let me order, she drove me home, it just felt really comfortable.
“We both have a respect for the performers we grew up with. It’s an old form of show business that unfortunately doesn’t exist any more.
“There was a great patience with each other.
“I knew I trusted her and she trusted me. It ended up with a great deal of affection and respect,”
Parental Guidance marks Crystal’s first major movie role since 2002’s Analyze That, which was the sequel to 1999’s hugely successful Analyze This.