Billy Crystal was born on March 14, 1947
in Long Island, and by the age of five already knew he wanted to be a performer, either baseball or comedy. At first it seemed uncertain where he was headed, studying past artists such as Laurel and Hardy
and Ernie Kovacs
, as well as making the club rounds by 16. Then it seemed that baseball would be his thing; in high school he won a baseball scholarship
to Marshall University
in West Virginia
. The baseball program was cut the next year, however, and he transferred to Nassau Community College in Long Island where his major league shortstop
goals seemed less attainable. A year after that, he studied to be a director in New York University
’s film school under Martin Scorsese
. He completed his B.F.A
in 1970 and married his college sweetheart. (Crystal is quoted as ultimately having chosen comedy over baseball ’because God made me short’
, although he is actually one of the best ball players currently in show business
After graduation Crystal formed his own troupe, 3’s Company. He developed a standup act as an ‘observational critic’, comedy based on his own experiences and those of the audience. Performing opening acts for musicians such as Barry Manilow, he attracted media attention with his impression of an interview with Muhammad Ali. Crystal moved his family to L.A. with the hopes of finding regular work on a TV series or such, meanwhile performing stand up comedy. Of course he was spotted by Norman Lear who gave him several guest TV appearances (among them in All in the Family). Eventually Billy landed a spot as the gay character in the soap opera Soap, surprising audiences by transcending the sissy stereotype and making his character entirely three-dimensional.
In 1978, Crystal played a pregnant man in the unsuccessful movie Rabbit Test and then in 1980 he had a dramatic role in the TV movie Enola Gay. Meanwhile, his career accelerated with choice club performances, TV guest shots, and regular appearances on Saturday Night Live. In 1984, he became a regular in the cast. Moving onward, Billy had some more successful movies, including This is Spinal Tap (1984), The Princess Bride (1987), Throw Momma From The Train (1987) and When Harry Met Sally (1989). For his role in the last, Crystal won a Golden Globe Award for “Best Comedy Actor”.
As well, Crystal emceed countless Emmys and Oscar ceremonies. In 1991, he executive-produced and starred in his most successful film project, City Slickers. In 1992, he tried an ambitious film, Mr. Saturday Night, which displayed great potential but died at the box office. Both these two won Golden Globe awards for “Best Comedy Actor”. Also in 1992, he hosted the Oscar ceremony; in 1994 he released City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold, a sequel.
In 1995, Crystal directed, produced, wrote and starred in Forget Paris, which was unfortunately somewhat of a flop. He subsequently focused more on acting, with roles in Hamlet(1996) and Deconstructing Harry(1997). In 1998 he again tried starring in a movie that he produced, My Giant; again it proved fairly unsuccessful.
Crystal came back in 1999 with a comedy which he both executive-produced and acted in, Analyze This, which entertained a fairly positive reception. In 2001, Crystal created the TV move 61*, as well as writing for and appearing in America’s Sweethearts.
Billy Crystal has somehow created a most versatile career, spanning acting, writing, producing and directing; as well as being successful on stage, tv, and the large screen. Should his movie career ever falter, he can always go back to hosting the Emmy Awards, an event he emceed six times.
Celebritywonder.com, Cinema.com, Imdb, Infoplease.com, Moviestarpages.com.