Billy Crystal, now 73, is hardly sitting on his already impressive laurels.
On the heels of a well-received indie film “Standing Up, Falling Down” in February, Crystal is co-starring in a new comedy with Tiffany Haddish “Here Today.” Crystal plays a successful veteran comedy writer Charlie Burns suffering from early-onset dementia who starts an unlikely friendship with a free-spirited New York City street singer Emma Payge (Haddish).
It opens in wide release in movie theaters across America this weekend.
Crystal, in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Wednesday, said he and the film’s co-creator and former “Saturday Night Live” scribe Alan Zweibel finished shooting the film before the pandemic began but resisted the temptation to place it on a streaming service.
“This was such an audience movie,” Crystal said. “We had already had two test screenings that were just tremendous.”
So two months ago, Sony Pictures ― seeking viable films to place in movie theaters as the country began opening up ― eagerly bought the rights to “Here Today.”
“If you feel safe enough and take your mask and hopefully you’re vaccinated, come to a theater,” Crystal said. “This is a real movie experience for a family, especially Mother’s Day. It’s a very funny and beautiful story about friendship and something I think is sorely missing in this country, which is empathy. We need to care for and reach out to others.”
Crystal’s character in the film is loosely based on an actual “Saturday Night Live” writer when Crystal and Zweibel were on the show in the mid-1980s named Herb Sargent. “We both had great affection for Herb,” he said. “He was somebody we learned from, somebody we looked up to.”
While writing the script, Crystal had seen a gypsy jazz band perform in New York City on the streets and created Haddish’s character.