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Billy Crystal on Pixar's 'Monsters University': Mike Is 'My Favorite Character I’ve Ever Played'

Billy Crystal NYFF Princess Bride Screening - P 2012
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images
Billy Crystal teases upcoming film releases while at NYFF's 25th-anniversary screening of "The Princess Bride"

The comedian raves about John Goodman, his Pixar character Mike Wazowski and getting nostalgic when discussing his upcoming film "Parental Guidance" with Bette Midler.

It’s not every day that an award-winning actor in his sixties goes back to college, let alone with a good friend who is currently headlining a new Ben Affleck flick. Yet such is the case for Billy Crystal, as he wraps up production on the highly anticipated Disney/Pixar prequel Monsters University with John Goodman.

“We do it together and he’s a genius,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “That’s why I think there’s a lot of affection between Mike and Sulley on the screen -- the relationship between the two of us is so real. We really love working with each other.”

VIDEO: 'Monsters University' Trailer Reunites Sulley and Mike

Crystal and Goodman have reunited in the sound booth to revive their characters from Monsters, Inc., the heartfelt box office hit about monsters who hide in closets and under beds to scare children. The 2001 film also featured Steve Buscemi, Bonnie Hunt, Frank Oz and Pixar voice veteran John Ratzenberger, and grossed $525.4 million worldwide -- including $255.9 million in North America.

“He’s my favorite character I’ve ever played,” Crystal confesses of voicing Mike Wazowski, the green, one-eyed monster who is pranked into a makeshift disco ball in the recently released trailers. “This time, they’re in college -- 17 and 18 years old -- they made us look younger, and I have a retainer. It’s how they discover who they are.”

STORY: Pixar's Upcoming Slate of Releases Features 2 'Nemos,' Dinosaurs and Skeletons

Like many of his other films, Crystal appreciates the freedom to spontaneously add new lines to the script.

“I improvise like a madman! The Pixar people just let me go – if it’s good, it’s good, if it’s not, it doesn’t end up in the movie. It’s hilarious.”

And since Monsters University is a prequel, audiences can rest assured that all spoilers for the June 2013 film simply lead to the original. In fact, Crystal has no problem stating, “The movie ends with us walking into Monsters, Inc. and working in the mail room.”

A 3D version of Monsters, Inc. will be released in theaters on Dec. 19, a month earlier than its initial date in order to appease holiday moviegoers. However, Crystal will be competing with himself at the box office, since Parental Guidance -- his feel-good family flick with Bette Midler -- arrives on Christmas Day.

STORY: Silver-Haired Christmas Day Showdown: Streisand vs. Crystal, Midler

“I’m excited about this movie as anything I’ve done,” he tells THR. “I think this relates to families on all different levels -- it’s a very, very funny and very, I think, very heartfelt movie about [what] these young married [people] are going through with their kids, and how they relate to their parents and their grandparents’ roles in the families.”

Crystal notes that he always draws a smile from others whenever he shares the premise for Parental Guidance.

“When I get that reaction, it’s the same reaction I got when I told people about the idea for City Slickers. ‘Three guys cattle drive...’ and they went, ‘Oh I wanna see that.’ It’s a beautifully funny movie.”

So does Midler match Goodman when it comes to comedic chemistry onscreen?

“We had a blast,” says Crystal of working with Midler. “The movie sings when we’re together.”