Monsters University: John Goodman Goes Back to School

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John Goodman and Billy Crystal could not have been better cast in the 2001 Pixar smash Monsters, Inc. Now, to paraphrase Thin Lizzy, the boys are back – as teased in the Monsters University trailer.

Billy Crystal and John Goodman Monsters University

We met Goodman recently and the actor has been quite busy of late with turns in the Oscar-winning Argo, The Hangover Part III and The Internship. Of all his great work, it is clear that the esteemed performer is thrilled to be back being the monster Sully.

How does one follow up a blockbuster such as Monsters, Inc? Why not go back to the beginning and Pixar has done it brilliantly (our full review is coming soon) by showing how Mike and Sully met at an institution that has been spawning great scarers for centuries, Monsters University. That first meeting is teased in this Monsters University clip.

When asked why Mike and Sully (and thus Crystal and Goodman) work so well, the actor feels it all has to do with kinship. “The fact that he’s a blowhard is why it works,” Goodman said and laughed.

“No, I think the reason they work so well together is that they complete each other, in a way. I think Sully really, really needs Mike Wazowski. It makes him complete, lets the air out of him a little bit. 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 pre-conceived notions of themselves and of the world. They’re good for each other.”

Readying to play Sully as a younger man, Goodman thought he would have to adjust his vocal range from the first film. “I thought I was gonna come in and talk like the kid from Our Miss Brooks… ‘Oh, hello!’” Goodman said in a high pitched voice and laughed.

In fact, it was much more a faint change. “It just kinda happens organically. You pick up on other energies and the characters’ focuses, and it just happens. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s there.”

John Goodman Monsters University Still

The first film was a leap of artistic achievement. What Pixar had done with computer-generated animation was nothing short of a miracle. Since then, they have pushed the envelope even further. Goodman was excited just to see what leaps and bounds they had conquered from Monsters, Inc. to Monsters University.

“We were just flabbergasted by the fact that they could animate fur -- and animate hair. That was a big deal then,” he admitted. “It just seems like they’ve gotten so much better with their technique. It’s constantly amazing. So the thrill is still there because they’re such wonderful storytellers, great writers, and everything is reality-based and grounded, so you can believe in it, and it makes it fun.”

So, what was Goodman like in college?

“I was a drifter for a while. I just was desperate to fit in with a group. Really, I was swimming. I was lost, treading water, trying to find my way,” Goodman recalled.

“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.”

Sully seems like he thinks he can cruise through school ‘cause his dad is a famous monster. Goodman gave us a few creative ways that he found to get out of school when the passion for learning needed a day off.

“I was very elaborate. I would go to the nurse’s office and fill up a glass of water. I was really good at fake vomiting. I’d go to the nurse’s bathroom, do that, and then slam the water into the toilet bowl,” Goodman said and laughed.

Revenge of the Nerds John Goodman

Over 30 years ago, Goodman played coach to the jocks in Revenge of the Nerds. Now in Monsters University, his character is stuck with the "Nerds" in a similar Greek games-type event from that 1980's classic that could result in Sully and Mike succeeding in the face of a great challenge.

“I was pretty loose while I was making it. I had a lot of fun,” Goodman said of Revenge of the Nerds.

“It’s a great way to revisit college in Monsters University because obviously, I couldn’t do that in a non-animated way now [laughs]. It’s a good way to reflect back on how I was then and my wants and dreams and everything and how you adapt to everything that changes you and which roads you take. I’m babbling like a fool right now, but that’s what I’ve always done is babbled my way through life!”

Stay with Movie Fanatic for our exclusive video interviews with Billy Crystal, Nathan Fillion and Charlie Day... all from the Pixar campus in Northern California, going live the week of June 17.

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