The two veteran entertainers first met on the comedy circuit, but never actually worked together until “Parental Guidance,” in theaters Christmas Day.
“He says we met in the ’60s at the Improv, and of course I don’t remember any of that because I was going so fast,” says Midler.
Crystal and Midler share the screen for the first time in the family film, playing a married couple who bumble their way along to bonding with their grandchildren. Marisa Tomei stars as their Type-A daughter, who regrets having to entrust her three kids to “the other grandparents” during a business trip with her husband when her in-laws aren’t available.
The idea for the movie came from Crystal’s real-life experience caring for his own granddaughters, now ages 6 and 9. He and wife Janice were confounded by the “pages and pages” of rules their daughter, actress Jennifer Crystal Foley, left behind.
“We had them for six days all alone, and on the seventh day I rested,” says Crystal, 64. “And I came into the office and started writing the story of grandparents who have to babysit for their kids while they go away.”
Midler found the script just as she was looking for a family-film project, and she immediately connected with the humor and warmth of the story.
“I wanted to do something that everybody could come and see, because that’s what I grew up with,” she says.
“It came at a really good point in our lives and our careers to finally find each other and be able to share the responsibilities for the movie together and our scenes,” Crystal says. “She’s an old pro, in the best of ways. Take out old, she’s a pro. And very giving, very funny and very willing to try anything.”
Crystal, also a producer of the film, says he uses movies and performing as a means of working through significant chapters of his life. The film “City Slickers” was about him turning 40. His one-man show, “700 Sundays,” is about losing his parents.
“And then this one is about grandparenting,” he says. “I shudder to think what the next one’s about.”