CNBC
updated 6/30/2006 4:11:42 PM ET 2006-06-30T20:11:42

MICHAEL EISNER:
So, Billy. Thank you for — coming on this show. And — and I'm a little obsessed with you now.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Uh-oh.

MICHAEL EISNER:
'Cause I saw — Seven Hundred Sundays — your one man show — twice, and I read the book —  and () based on Seven Hundred Sundays. And I've been going to theater since Oklahoma — when I grew up in Manhattan until Lion King era. And I've never seen an audience go as crazy or having a better time — or a more emotional time than at Seven Hundred Sundays.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Oh —

MICHAEL EISNER:
And —

BILLY CRYSTAL:
--thank you.

MICHAEL EISNER:
I don't know why I felt that way, except that you taking the audience on a Disney-esque roller coaster ride through extreme happiness, and fun, and comedy — and then into the — darkness of — of death and other issues was pretty brilliant.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Oh — a Disney-esque.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Well, Disney-- I mean--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Mi-- Mr. Jew's wild ride.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Yeah. Exactly. (LAUGHTER) Did you-- I mean, I know you worked on it a long time and I know--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Well, I started writing in 1948--basically. But-- you know--

MICHAEL EISNER:
Living and writing it.

BILLY CRYSTAL:

Yeah and-- it just came time for it to-- it needed to come out. I mean-- you know-- my dad died when I was 15. It was always a hurt that was in there-- no matter how old you get, no matter ho-- what you do-- you just miss the phone calls-- still you miss that-- the-- person in the audience waving. And that-- little things that-- you know, you would get to do and hopefully-- would be there for the rest of your lives. So--

MICHAEL EISNER:
Was it traumatic license-- in the play, in the book-- you said that on the actual day that he died-- you had a fight with him and then felt guilty, 'cause--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Oh, no. That was that-- that was-- that was part of the-- the hurt of it all in never getting a chance to say, "I'm sorry."

MICHAEL EISNER:
That was the only fight you really had with him?

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Well, we had-- you know, we had father and son things, but that was really the one that I remember the most, 'cause-- we were alone for the first time-- my two older brothers were finally away at college. I was the youngest, so I had him alone for a-- well-- five Sundays-- one month. And then we had this fight about this girl that I was-- first love-- you know, first crush. And he was upset with me. And-- but at the same time in his life-- business had folded-- he wasn't well, which we didn't know. And he was under incredible pressure. So, it came out at me. So, we had a little-- thing about this girl. And then that night he-- he dies.

MICHAEL EISNER:
If you wrote that in a play--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
E-- right.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--or a television-- show and it was given to an executive, he would say, "That's too convenient."

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Yeah, I know it's-- but life isn't convenient sometimes. You know? And-- that's-- that's the way it was. And--

MICHAEL EISNER:
Well, some--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
--to relate that to the audience at that point in the show when that starts to turn-- after--first act of very funny things, and then-- you start to understand that this is-- this is now-- we're gonna have to sit through this-- gave me a power on stage that I've never-- felt before in my life. And I think that's why it-- it reached people-- that I was to simply tell this-- what happened to me. And then-- and in many instances, what I found out in the three hundred shows that we've done now-- is that I keep getting these letters-- it happened to-- all these other people. So, my life became their lives. So, it wasn't just me-- it was a-- universal story about-- losing.

MICHAEL EISNER:
…you probably don't even know it, but-- one of the last things I did at ABC was a-- a woman by the name of Marcie Carsey came into my office and said, "I'd like you to read this script. I think this half hour comedy-- it's gonna be a soap opera, but it's a comedy. It should be on Tuesday and Thursday, twice a week-- and it's called Soap. (LAUGHTER) And here's the cast." And I said, "Sounds good." And went to Paramount. (LAUGHTER) And then this--really-- revolutionary kind of comedy--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
It was.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--called Soap.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
So, I have some-- relationship with you and Adam (PH) and of course-- you-- were the--voice of Mike in Monsters, Inc.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Still I think the best part I've ever had.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Really?

BILLY CRYSTAL:
I loved doing that. The-- those guys were geniuses and they were just so much fun to play this guy who you really didn't see. You know-- when you do those things, you're reading a script. But what John Lassiter -- did-- let me do-- I also wanted to get John Goodman in the studio with me. Usually you do them separately. Then they piece the voices together.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Right.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
So, I said-- "How can I play-- you know, with John-- and we're so close together in the movie-- Sully (PH) and Mike that we"-- and so, they let John come in. So, the two of us would just riff off each other-- and I think it made the performance that much better that we were actually-- you know, together-- in a room.

MICHAEL EISNER:
It was a great movie.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
It is a-- I think it's a brilliant movie.

MICHAEL EISNER:
I've-- been involved with a lot of movies, I-- I think I could figure out when it's real or not real. In City Slickers -- did you deliver that calf-- 'cause that is the most disgusting thing I've ever seen.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
I delivered it 14 times.

MICHAEL EISNER:
A real-- you put your hands-- in there--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
It's a f--

MICHAEL EISNER:
--and pulled out those legs?

BILLY CRYSTAL:
It's-- it-- well, listen-- it-- we have all these shows now where they the ma-- the magicians tell how they did stuff. So, it was the rear portion of a cow-- that we built.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Oh.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
And the birth-- birth canal was exactly-- to specifications. It even had lungs that moved, and muscles that contracted. And we pulled this tiny little runt of it-- 14 times that day-- pushed him back. Well-- we're--

MICHAEL EISNER:
A real calf?

BILLY CRYSTAL:
A real calf-- yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Just born calf--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--or you wetted him down.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Yeah-- sure. Chicken parts and all that stuff. And-- movie magic. And pushed him back up, brought him back down.

MICHAEL EISNER:
I couldn't-- I was-- kept trying to figure the movie magic.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
I couldn't figure it out, 'cause it looked like you stuck your hands in there, pulled him out, and he fell over your face with all that--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Yeah, it did.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--stuff.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Listen, it was-- it was harder to get Jack (Palance) out of his trailer everyday.

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL EISNER:
That was a great sequence.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
I loved working with him. It's a-- it-- the movie-- to this day holds up to people. It's still on all the time. It still does good ratings all the time. And it meant something to people.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Okay, well that-- and obviously-- When Harry Met Sally -- well, Rob Reiner -- Rob Reiner did Spinal Tap --

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Uh-Hmm (AFFIRM).

MICHAEL EISNER:
--directed you in Spinal Tap that--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Yes.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--you were in for-- 12 seconds.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Right.

MICHAEL EISNER:
So, he gave you more time in--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Princess Bride.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Princess Bride. When Harry Met Sally you got more time-- clearly.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Yes. I wore him down.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Did you like playing a mime in-- Spinal Tap?

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Well, you know there-- there were all my friends. And-- you know, Chris (PH) and-- and--and Mike (PH) and-- McKey (PH) and Harry (PH) and-- and-- and Rob (PH), of course. And it was fun to be with 'em-- just totally improvised movie-- and brilliant guys to be around. So, he said, "Do you wanna do this little thing?" And so-- I said, "Yeah." And-- every so often--

MICHAEL EISNER:
It's a classic film.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Yeah, it is. But every so often people come up to me and go-- "Mime is money", which was my-- I think my one line in it-- in the movie.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Mime is money?

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Mime is money.

MICHAEL EISNER:
But it's not.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
No-- not at all.

MICHAEL EISNER:
That's why they left-- it was only 12 seconds left in the movie.

MICHAEL EISNER:
The-- the-- Oscars. Now you've done the Oscars more-- like-- eight times-- other than Bob Hope, you are the-- highest rated, most successful host of the Oscars. Do you enjoy doing that?

BILLY CRYSTAL:
I did-- for most of them. There was moments that I-- I enjoyed more than others-- of course-- that's just the way the show is.

MICHAEL EISNER:
That's a lot a work.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
A lot a work. And-- for what we did-- we started to-- I think-- revolutionize maybe-- the way the host could work in that show. We started doing this-- the medleys-- the songs when they stopped doing s-- musical numbers-- we made our own up. The movies that open the show-- all of those-- you know, cutting myself into the nominated films-- I think was a good innovation on the show. And-- I had a--

MICHAEL EISNER:
Four or five hours standing up--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
It's not-- you know--

MICHAEL EISNER:
--being funny, and clever, and--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
--and holding that tight-- audience. And we-- how many premiers have you been to and--and-- where good movies don't play as well. You know-- it's a tough audience.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Right.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
And the lights are on. They don't like havin the lights on.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Did-- playin Analyze This for-- you played a psychiatrist -- was that-- interesting, because it was a psychiatrist? Or was it only interesting, because it was DeNiro? Or that it was such a good idea?

BILLY CRYSTAL:
It was a great idea, and it was DeNiro. And-- that was a thrill of a lifetime to-- we were a little bit friendly, but then I-- I did the f-- Peter Tolan and I wrote the first draft for the script. We wrote it from-- Kenny Lonergan wrote the first one-- we sent it to him and he called me. He said, "Come on the level. You know-- let's-- let's read it. Let's have a reading-- we'll read it." So, I said, "We'll put a cast together." So, we did that up at-- CAA (PH). And I could see him enjoying himself-- getting laughs, which I totally believed he was the guy to do this. I c-- I-- If-- I was like a pitbull-- my God. On a s-- I wouldn't let go. You gotta do this-- people have to see you this way. I said, "Oh, my-- you don't understand. You're an icon to people. If they see you having a good time and-- and doing the crying-- you'll wink at all the guys you played, and the-- and the-- the love it-- I'm telling you-- it's different than anything you've done. Tru"-- I kept screaming, "Trust me. Trust me." F-- like a year till we finally sat down and made the movie. And the first thing--

MICHAEL EISNER:
Before the Sopranos, before--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Yeah, we--

MICHAEL EISNER:
--tough guys--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
--we were before--

MICHAEL EISNER:
--could cry.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
--them, but they-- I think-- yeah, but I think they ended up coming on a week before we did. But-- but-- the first day of-- on the set-- now we'd been to rehearsals and all a that stuff-- but the first day on the set-- we go at six o'clock in the morning-- as Harold Ramis -- great director and-- Bob's there. He's very sleepy-- hair's undone and--

MICHAEL EISNER:
(LAUGHTER)

BILLY CRYSTAL:
--he's got glasses-- look at the script, and it's the first-- time we're gonna be in the office together. And I'm-- you know, I'm-- I've been up-- I'm ready to go-- you know. And-- so, they said it would be about two hours till we light. We do rehearsal-- everything's fine. But I'm lookin at him. He's all-- schlumpy and-- you know-- what is he doing? Two hours later he comes back-- the hair is-- dyed different color--

MICHAEL EISNER:
(LAUGHTER)

BILLY CRYSTAL:
--shaved -- no, it's not Bob. It's now Paul Vitti. That's him. And it's-- the challenge of a lifetime-- and thrilling beyond belief.

MICHAEL EISNER:
He stayed in that character for the whole shoot? Or he--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--did it everyday he came back?

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Everyday-- everyday. Wash--

MICHAEL EISNER:
Wow.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
--it out, come back. Wash it out, come back. Wa-- and when-- what-- when he came out on a set and he's that guy-- and you're opposite him-- it's like playing tennis with a great player. You know-- suddenly you play a little bit better and-- he just ma-- I-- he made me better.

MICHAEL EISNER:
But you also take over being the psychiatrist. You had a-- actually have-- the control of the room-- or at least try to get the control from this--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Yeah. But basically what-- I thought I was-- I-- in a way I was Bud Abbott. You know-- I would just ask him the-- the like-- you know, what'd you do today, Lou? And then he would s--have the funny stuff. I d-- you know, I--

MICHAEL EISNER:
No.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
--I don't mind playing straight.

MICHAEL EISNER:
That-- no. That-- if you were not--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
And to-- but to find these li--

MICHAEL EISNER:
--strong in that movie--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
I know.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--it would've failed.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
No-- you stood up to 'em, which was the brilliance a that movie.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
You-- you-- you met him on his own level and actually-- were more mature and-- more reasonable and stronger.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Well, that's the role a that guy-- and to make him find himself. But-- but-- but to have fun with him and to-- I-- I liked seeing how much he was having a good time.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Your instincts were good. I-- one of my favorite movies is Mr. Saturday Night.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Oh.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Now, I know it was not a-- a commercial success. But it really was a good movie. It was-- you directed it.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Yes.

MICHAEL EISNER:
It was about an aging comedian.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Which I'm becoming. (LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL EISNER:
No, you're not. Well-- here's the problem-- the re-- here's my-- you want my view of why it wasn't a commercial success?

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Sure.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Which-- it's not the way the real life is gonna be. You didn't let him come back. You didn't let him succeed like you did in City Slickers or in Analyze This or in-- When Harry Met Sally. He never got to come back-- you had him go right in the toilet at the end.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Well-- not really. He has a pe--

MICHAEL EISNER:
He had a relationship resolved.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Yes. That was more important than--

MICHAEL EISNER:
I wanted him to be a star again.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Well-- you know, it-- it--

MICHAEL EISNER:
I was looking for the-- Academy Award that he was gonna win in the last scene--remember I came from Disney.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Right.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Academy Award he should've won in the last scene. (LAUGHTER) Band comin together--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
But it wouldn't have been as true as it would--

MICHAEL EISNER:
No.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
--what was important was that he resolved this issue with his brother and-- became--

MICHAEL EISNER:
I would've wanted him--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
--a slightly nicer person--

MICHAEL EISNER:
--to solve it back stage at the Academy Awards.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
But he also-- be-- he also-- gives his daughter a-- a--

MICHAEL EISNER:
That was nice.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
--s-- an-- a-- significant-- amount of money that was-- that's all he had.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Yeah, that was a nice.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
And he gives her this check for--

MICHAEL EISNER:

And the picture was nice.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
--for 13 thousand dollars. And he gives her this check and say, "Go-- I'm-- I'm sorry I was a bad father." And-- and you know for guys like that-- guys with-- you know, flowers that never open-- for him to just-- to open up a little bit and give her this money and-- hug her-- and feel something else-- at this point in his life was-- was-- the victory for him. So, it wasn't about-- thank you very much. I couldn't have done this without Stan. You know? It was about-- a little wink between brothers, 'cause after all-- you know, that means more than anything else.

MICHAEL EISNER:
It was extremely well directed. It was extremely acted. It was extremely emotional.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
You know, it's a-- it's-- it wa-- it was-- it's a very good movie, I think. You know, all these years later and the pain of it not working-- coming off Harry and Sally and City Slickers, and then suddenly this one doesn't work-- even though we got pretty much-- pretty-- really strong reviews. The perception of those movies like-- when Bette did For The Boys-- and then you get people you like-- and I guess I was at my height then of-- you know-- movie success-- those two back to back. And then you put the stuff on your face, and you're old, and you're cranky in the-- in the part and people were-- is this a happy comedy? And I met-- Garry Marshall said to me-- I-- I-- he loved the movie. He said, "I don't think it's a happy comedy. They wanna see a happy comedy." And it wasn't that-- it was a movie-- mova-- a moody character piece.

MICHAEL EISNER:
I used to go to the Yankee games. And if they were down by ten runs-- last of the ninth-- two outs-- I would sit there--

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Yeah.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--'cause I was convinced they could still win.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Sure.

MICHAEL EISNER:
So, I saw Mr. Saturday Night. I-- till the very last second-- (LAUGHTER) I thought he was gonna get the part, he was gonna be in-- he was gonna be Henry Fonda on-- On Golden Pond. He was gonna win. But it was a-- fabulous movie. Your work is-- is so funny, but complex, and interesting, and with real motivation and real arc-- which is why I was-- desperate to have you on-

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Oh-- oh.

MICHAEL EISNER:
--talking to me. And I-- I really thank you for coming on.

BILLY CRYSTAL:
Oh, I'm glad to be here. Let's eat.

MICHAEL EISNER:
Thank you. (LAUGHTER)

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