Billy Crystal: Biography
he son of a jazz concert producer, Billy Crystal grew up in the company of such music legends as Billie Holiday, Pee Wee Russell, and Eddy Condon. His mind made up by age five, Crystal knew he wanted to become a performer -- not in music but in baseball or comedy
Learning how to make people laugh by studying the works of past masters Laurel and Hardy, Ernie Kovacs, and Jonathan Winters, Crystal began making the club rounds at 16. He was sidetracked briefly by New York University's film school, where he studied to be a director under Martin Scorsese, but upon graduation it was back to comedy when Crystal formed his own troupe, 3's Company. On his own, he developed into an "observational" comic, humor based on his own experiences and the collective experiences of his audience. He came to media attention via his impression of Howard Cosell interviewing Muhammad Ali. After doing time as an opening act for such musicians as Barry Manilow, Crystal struck out for Hollywood, in hopes of finding regular work on a TV series. In 1977, he was hired to play the gay character Jodie Dallas on Soap. Though many people expected the performer to be typecast in this sort of part, he transcended the "sissy" stereotype, making the character so three-dimensional that audiences and potential employers were fully aware that there was more to Crystal's talent than what they saw in Jodie.
Billy Crystal: Career
Crystal became and remained a headliner and, in 1978, had his first crack at movie stardom as a pregnant man in Rabbit Test. The movie was unsuccessful, but Crystal's star had not been eclipsed by the experience; he was even entrusted with a dramatic role in the 1980 TV movie Enola Gay. His career accelerating with comedy records, choice club dates, regular appearances on Saturday Night Live, and TV guest shots, Crystal had a more successful stab at the movies in such films as This is Spinal Tap (1984), The Princess Bride (1987), Throw Momma From the Train (1987), and When Harry Met Sally (1989). Riding high after a memorable emceeing stint at the Oscar ceremony, Crystal executive produced and starred in his most successful film project to date, an uproarious middle-age-angst comedy called City Slickers (1991). In 1992, he mounted his most ambitious film endeavor, Mr. Saturday Night, the bittersweet chronicle of a self-destructive comedian. The film had great potential (as indicated by the outtakes contained in its video cassette version), but the end result died at the box office. That same year, Crystal again hosted the Oscar awards, and in 1994 he repeated his earlier success with the popular sequel City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly's Gold.
Crystal added to his directing credits the following year with the romantic comedy Forget Paris. Unfortunately, the film -- which he also produced, wrote, and starred in -- was something of a flop. He subsequently focused his energies on acting, turning up in Hamlet (1996) and Deconstructing Harry (1997). In 1998 he had another producing stint with My Giant, a comedy he also starred in; like his previous producing effort, that film also proved fairly unsuccessful. However, Crystal bounced back in 1999, executive producing and starring in Analyze This. A comedy about a mob boss, Robert De Niro, seeking therapy from a psychiatrist (Crystal), it won a number of positive reviews, convincing many that the performer was back in his element.
Billy Crystal: Films
Howl's Moving Castle (2005), Analyze That (2002), Monsters, Inc. (2001), The Journey (2001), America's Sweethearts (2001), Analyze This (1999), My Giant (1998), Deconstructing Harry (1997), Fathers' Day (1997), Hamlet (1996), Forget Paris (1995), City Slickers II: the Legend of Curly's Gold (1994), Mr. Saturday Night (1992), City Slickers (1991), When Harry Met Sally... (1989),
Memories of Me (1988), Throw Momma From the Train (1987), The Princess Bride (1987), Running Scared (1986), This Is Spinal Tap (1984), Enola Gay - The Men, the Mission, the Atomic Bomb (1980), Breaking Up Is Hard to Do (1979), Rabbit Test (1978)