IAR Press Conference Coverage: 'Parental Guidance'

Monday, 24 December 2012 15:07 Written by  iamrogue
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IAR Press Conference Coverage: 'Parental Guidance'

We're currently neck deep in the holidays, that magical time of the year when millions of citizens engage in a mass migration to stuff ourselves in homes with their extended families, groups of people we know so well and so little.  Our often strange familial relationships are made even more dramatic by seemingly irreconcilable generational differences.

In Parental Guidance, arriving at a theater near you on Christmas Day, those generational differences are the basic for family-friendly comedy.

Directed by Andy Fickman (Race to Witch Mountain, The Game Plan), Parental Guidance stars Billy Crystal (When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers) and Bette Midler (The Rose, Beaches) as Artie and Diane, two thoroughly old school grandparents uncomfortable with the fabulous technological age in which they find themselves. 

The couple agrees to babysit their trio of grandparents when their overbearing, type-A parents, played by Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny, The Wrestler) and Tom Everett Scott (That Thing You Do!, TV's Southland) go on vacation.  Out of touch with the unruly youngsters, Artie and Diane must get beyond the iPhones, Twitter, and Facebook to relate to their grandchildren.

While promoting Parental Guidance, Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, and Marisa Tomei spoke to a group of international entertainment journalists about making the comedy, working with young actors, messy comedic gags, feeling out of touch, and looking back on illustrious careers.

W.C. Fields famously advised 'Never work with animals and children."  This movie had no shortage of the latter, as young actors Bailee Madison, Joshua Rush, and Karl Harrison Breitkopf played the all-important grandchildren.  For Academy Award winner Tomei, helping facilitate the best performances from the young actors meant deferring to director Fickman, who has directed many child actors.  Tomei said, "Well at some point we decided after the Chinese restaurant scene where we all kind of chimed into the kids like because we were trying to help get them focused and get a rhythm with the whole family, we realized that we would have only Andy speak to them in terms of that kind of thing because it was like we were confusing them. We were very enthusiastic and loved them and they were so smart, but we needed one, so Andy did that so well and each of the kids, yeah they for me I just found my moments and time with each of them. But you knew one of them."

"Parts of the shooting we would sing for the kids to keep them occupied sometimes," Crystal explained. "Because they get a little bored or their mind wanders and then we were in the subway in Atlanta that had great echoes a lot of the time. And that's where do-wop was born, was in high school bathrooms because the echo was good. So we just started singing Charlie Brown and...Poison Ivy, Yakkity Yak, those kind of great old songs. I turned and said, 'Why don't we find a place to sing together in the movie?' And she didn't want to do it right away because you were worried of being, Oh, it's Bette Midler time.'"

Midler replied, "I thought it would break the truth of the character, what little shreds of truth there were. We had a great time. It was Atlanta and we were supposed to be shooting in the summer and they pushed it back so we were shooting in the winter and we were all really cold the whole time because we were wearing these light summer clothes and one of the challenges was to keep warm and then we had a tornado. So we had episodes where we would have to be out at night in the rain and doing rain shoots and so it was challenging that way, but it was almost so much fun because that guy, that director, and of course Billy too, Andy Fickman is a really cheerful soul, he has a very upbeat spirit and he's known for keeping, for wrangling kids and for doing for making these wonderful movies for and with children and so we were really lucky to get him and he runs a really happy upbeat kind of a set and that's so rare in our business. We're usually like, 'Oh god don't make me leave the trailer oh god, oh god.' And this set wasn't like that. It was like, 'Let me at 'em!' So it was great, I really enjoyed it."

In one scene of physical comedy, Tomei gets to partake in a time-honored gag: she gets hits straight-on in the face with a pie. "The cake all over my face was such a fun scene," she said. "I had such a good time with that, I always wanted to have a cake planted in my face. Billy made my dream come true. It was a fun day. We were excited about it all together and then after a while just like with real cake it starts making you a little
crashing and a little crazy. So it was a lot of timing, we had to really work out the timing of how that was going to flip right exactly onto my face and actually the very first time that we did it we had we were really worried because as you can imagine once you get it all in your hair and everything you have to wash your hair then you have to get back on the set and it takes a lot of time."

Artie is fired from his job as a minor league baseball announcer because of his inability to use Facebook and Twitter.  Artie and Diane's unfamiliarity with and distaste for modern consumer electronics is a major element of Parental Guidance, and Midler, for one, identified with her character, saying, "It’s a boom and a horror show too. It’s the devil’s playground. You have to keep up and there’s new apps everyday that drives you nuts. Some of it is quite interesting, I’ve been doing it for a long time, but I don’t use everything’s that available on a computer. And when my husband teaches me, he teaches me like this (stands up and bends over like she’s shielding a screen) and I can’t see anything. And I say, 'Move so I can see what you’re doing.' And he’s like, 'Command C. Command E. Command Q.' Plus… all the passwords drive me nuts. But, now I’m taking a class, three times a week. I sit there with all the other little ladies. I am so shocked you can do. I think it’s the greatest thing ever created. I don’t get how it works, but the stuff it can do is incredible. It’s like we were there when the car was built. 'You don’t have to ride a horse and don’t have to stand in poop.' It’s unbelievable."

Pulling out his shiny iPhone, Crystal chimed in, "The thing about these things, and I just got one, as a parent and a grandparent you can get called when things happen. But, I hate seeing families in restaurants and they’re all like this [looking down at his phone]. They text the waiter what they want (laughs). They look so sad. The art of conversation is gone."

Having successfully spent decades in show business, both Midler and Crystal were asked about any foundational advice they received when starting out in entertainment, to which Midler replied, "I didn’t get any guidance except be a nurse or be a teacher, don’t go into show business. Those were the only jobs available to women in those days. Actresses were like tramps and all that kinda thing. My dad was very conservative.

Crystal said, "My dad died when I was fifteen and he had worked a lot, way too much. So, much of my influence came from my mother. When I was about 21, just about out of college at NYU and Vietnam was raging and I’m a frustrated musician, and she said you should really take clarinet lessons because if you get drafted you can play in the band and you don’t have to fight. Today would be her 97th birthday. That’s a good omen."

"I’m shocked I’ve done as many things as I’ve done. I’m so grateful for having a long career," he continued. "And I hope it gets longer. I don’t take anything for granted. I’m so fortunate and lucky in my life. I met somebody who I fell in love with when I was 18. I’ve been married 43 years. I have two great kids, four grandchildren and another on the way. This was a dream of mine to get made and we wrestled it to the ground and got it made. If I stop now, every dream I’ve ever had is great. I just keep dreaming."

Parental Guidance opens nationwide on Tuesday, December 25th.

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