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Billy Crystal makes one for the grandkids: ‘Monsters University’

'MONSTERS UNIVERSITY'  (Pictured) MIKE.  ©2012 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved

"MONSTERS UNIVERSITY" (Pictured) MIKE. ©2012 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved

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Updated: July 17, 2013 6:33AM

SAN FRANCISCO — “You’re from Chicago. You know how it goes with this kind of stuff. It’s a neighborhood thing,” says Billy Crystal.

“There’s that one kid from your past. You never called him by just his first name. He was his first and last name. He’s still his first and last name said together. He could be 97. He goes by two names. ”

That brings Crystal to his character in “Monsters University” where he plays ...

“Mike Wazowski. The green martini olive. The CBS logo with legs,” he says. “The thing is you can’t just call him Mike. He’s that guy. He’s Mike Wazowski.”

And he’s back. In a prequel to the 2001 hit “Monsters Inc,” he’s going to campus in order to learn how to be a “scarer.” The only problem is, he’s not scary at all.

Enter his new friend and fellow college student James P. Sullivan, or Sulley (voiced by John Goodman). He’s naturally scary, but doesn’t put much effort into his scare studies. Other star voices in the Pixar sequel include Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Dave Foley and Sean Hayes.

“Mike is the heart of the film,” says director Dan Scanlon. “No one can do that like Billy Crystal, an actor who melts your defenses and makes you laugh.”

For Crystal, 65, the movie touched a nerve when it came to his own past.

“Here you have this monster kid who dreams of being something scary and it probably will never happen for him,” Crystal says. “I was the kid who wanted to become a professional baseball player. So, I understood his angst and longing.”

“I wanted to be the best baseball player, and when something that big in your mind doesn’t happen, it’s heartbreaking. At least in the movie, what comes out of Mike’s defunct future plans is this friendship with Sully.”

Crystal’s friendship with Goodman inspired both to insist on recording their voices together. “It makes it real when you have the other person with you,” says Crystal. “We weren’t just voices. We were acting these characters.”

He says one scene almost brought him to tears.

“Mike and Sully are down by the lake. It’s a heartbreaking scene. They’re very real and sad,” he says. “It’s emotional in the best way, and we did it together in the sound booth, tapping into our own pain.

“It wouldn’t have been as good if we did it on different days. I was looking into John’s eyes and seeing him covered with blue fur. He was looking into my eyes and seeing this little green guy.”

For the small screen, Crystal is developing an FX series called “The Comedian.”

“The TV series came out of the blue,” Crystal says. “FX brought it to me. It’s this Swedish thing.

“Honestly, I didn’t think the original would be funny because it gets dark there at noon and then the vodka comes out.”

“Anyway,” he says. “Our show will be shot documentary style. The premise is it’s the making of a ‘Saturday Night Live’ show with a veteran comic and a young, edgy comic who are forced to work together.”

He says, “We’re looking for the young guy now.”

Crystal isn’t a nightlife guy. He has been married to Janice Crystal since 1970, and they have two grown daughters and four grandchildren.

In fact, he’s a great babysitter — and that provides comic fodder.

“A few months ago one of those jerk paparazzi guys ran up to photograph us. Then they followed us into the American Girl store to keep shooting us,” says Crystal.

“I begged the photographer, ‘Please, leave us alone.’ The kids didn’t understand why he was just bugging us. I finally told the kids, ‘He’s following us because I’m in the movies. Sometimes.’ ”

The kids demanded to see Grandpa’s work.

“I couldn’t show them ‘When Harry Met Sally,’” says Crystal.

“Can you imagine the orgasm scene? Meg Ryan would be yelling, ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ The kids would be saying, ‘What is she doing?’ I’d have to say, ‘You’ll find out when you’re 36.’ ”

So, he showed them “Monsters Inc.”

“Now, all I hear on the phone is, ‘Hi Grandpa, we want to talk to the green guy Mike Wazowski.’ So I have to say, ‘Hold on, kids, I’ll get him.’ ”

Big Picture News Inc.

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