Billy Crystal, who grew up in Long Beach, recently hosted a preview of his new comedy, "Parental Guidance," for residents of his storm-shattered hometown. In his first live-action starring role since "Analyze That" (2002), the comedian teams with Bette Midler to play a pair of old-school grandparents suddenly entrusted with their three modern-family grandkids for a few hectic, culture-clashing days.
The movie, which opens Tuesday, "took me five years to get made, from when I first had the idea," says Crystal, 64, who is also one of the film's producers. The seed came from an occasion when he and his wife, Janice, had to watch their three granddaughters "for five or six days, and on the seventh day I rested. And when I came into the office I said, 'Here's the movie!' " Married screenwriters Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse wrote the script, with Crystal colleagues Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel contributing punch-up.
Crystal plays a minor- league baseball announcer, Artie Decker, who's just been let go "because he's too old-school in his approach -- he's like a Bob Uecker. He just talks a lot and tells funny stories. He's very good at it, but he's been in the minors for 35 years and now he's just turned 60 and can't believe this just happened."
And the character might have been Crystal in another life: A photo of sportscaster Decker as a young man is one of Crystal himself from his single year at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va. "I wasn't with the [school] paper," he says, correcting an Internet claim, "but at Marshall I was a disc jockey at [radio station] WMUL. I was the voice of the university, and in the movie there's a picture of me in the booth putting a record -- you remember records, right? -- on the turntable in the studio at WMUL."