In Monsters University, Pixar's oddest odd couple, Mike and Sulley, meet for the first time in college as fierce rivals before becoming best buddies in Monsters, Inc. Co-stars Billy Crystal and John Goodman recently reminisced about their own college years and what it was like reuniting a decade later for Pixar's first prequel.
"I have to admit, I was a little bit of a misfit," Crystal recalls. "I was a film directing major at NYU. I'm still not sure why I became a directing major when I was really an actor and a comedian, but there was something that drew me to that." He was in the same class with Oliver Stone, Christopher Guest, and Mike McKean, and none other than Martin Scorsese taught them film history as a grad student.
"He was very intimidating," Crystal suggests, "which is why I called him Mr. Scorsese and still do. He gave me a C. Once I found a theater group then that became my fraternity house."
Goodman, on the other hand, was a drifter for a while who desperately wanted to fit in with a group. "Really, I was lost, treading water, trying to find my way," he admits. "I wanted to play football; it didn't work out. I didn't really know what I wanted until I found acting in a theater department and then everything fell into place and I had a passion about something. Then I started living my life."
Monsters University is all about Mike wanting to become a Scarer and confronting disappointment. One door closes but another opens, which resonates with both Crystal and Goodman. "What I loved was I got to play him at a special time in his life," Crystal enthuses. "I totally relate to his determination and don't tell me I can't. For me, Mike is fearless. He's really the favorite character I've ever played. I really missed doing him until John Lasseter came up to me at his surprise 50th birthday party and said, 'We have the idea: it's a prequel. They're in college.' And he just walked away."
For Crystal, it was great to be the protagonist and gain new insight into Mike. "It was such a brilliant idea to put them in that time period when they're about to become who they're gonna become. That's what was so interesting to me. And playing it with John is phenomenal because we work together in the studio and we can act together."
Back on Monsters, Inc., in fact, Crystal insisted that they record together. "I think that's why their relationship on screen is really great because it's the real thing."Goodman likes that Sulley is a lovable jerk in college before becoming top Scarer at Monsters, Inc. "I think the reason they work so well together is that they complete each other, in a way. I think Sulley, really, really needs Mike Wazowski, especially in this film, when they're not completely formed monsters yet. They learn from each other, they learn how to adapt, how to let go of their preconceived notions of themselves and of the world. They're good for each other."