Parental Guidance: Marisa Tomei Talks Movie Motherhood

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Marisa Tomei told us in our exclusive interview that she had the time of her life starring opposite screen legends Billy Crystal and Bette Midler. It sure comes through in the Parental Guidance trailer! She shared creative joy with Crystal, who also serves as the film’s producer, and even got to sing and dance with the effervescent Midler.

Marisa Tomei Parental Guidance

“The Vaudeville ham inside me was really excited,” Tomei said of her song and dance with Midler. She promised more of it on the film’s home video release. “Actually it was longer, but they cut it shorter.”

Tomei appreciated that moment in the film, where she is shopping for a dress for her onscreen daughter with her onscreen mother (Midler). “It was a great scene,” she said. “I have to be a mom, but I’m also being a child… all in that scene!”

With Crystal, Tomei was set to star opposite the comic actor for 1992’s Mr. Saturday Night. But it was deemed she was too young to be his wife. Decades later, she marveled at the experience of finally starring with a true collaborator.

“His being a producer on this film and knowing the material so well having worked on the script, he was an incredible resource and someone I could turn to and ask anything. I trust him. His acumen with rhythm and timing and character is impeccable. I felt so comfortable and a great safety net for him to be there for me,” Tomei recalled.

His years of comic mastery came into play more than once. “If I made him laugh in a scene, or not… he’s right there with another idea. And as a performer, it was fantastic fun -- just so much playfulness.”

Crystal also possesses a keen insight into story that aided the veteran actress on many occasions. “It’s an extra pair of eyes who knows the story so well. He’s so flawless in his sense of timing with what works,” Tomei said.

“Our big moment in the film was in the kitchen where we confront what’s been going on with us. We just worked that out really quickly. We had natural chemistry.”

From the sounds of it, the Parental Guidance set was full of effortless camaraderie. Her onscreen husband is played by Tom Everett Scott and Tomei reported that the two were peas in a pod instantly. “He was really an insight because he’s been married a long time and we could fall into a rhythm easily,” she said. “It was simple. Nothing cerebral, it just fell into place.”

Speaking of family, the three child actors who play Tomei and Scott’s kids -- Bailee Madison, Joshua Rush and Kyle Harrison Breitkopt -- disprove the old adage that actors should not work with children. “They are natural talents, and (director) Andy Fickman is known for being really good with kids and making films for them and with them. He has that down,” Tomei said.

Having played a mother many times onscreen, Tomei herself has a magic touch with how to effectively interact with child actors. “My approach is I’ve found they come to you. When they’re ready to play or connect, that’s when the bonds just sort of happen.”

Parental Guidance Cast

Tomei has several projects she’s completed or hopes to make that she could not be more excited for audiences to witness. She directed her first movie, a short film that sent her to Ethiopia and aired on PBS. “It came to me out of nowhere. It was something that was based on a story in the book Half the Sky,” she said.

“It’s about women’s plight around the world and how they’re making great strides. It’s a positive thing that women and girls are doing. I got a call that said, 'Can you go to Ethiopia next week?''' she recalled and laughed. “Well, I like an adventure. I didn’t have any time to get nervous. But, I also had no time to prepare!”

Would she return to the director’s chair?

“I would like to do something else, but I’m not actively pursuing it. I think, ‘How much longer is this acting thing going to last?'" she said and laughed. “You never know.”

She is also close to having a film come together called Why Now? -- that will feature her with one of Movie Fanatic’s favorite actors, Sam Rockwell (recently seen in one of our Top 10 Movies of 2012, Seven Psychopaths). “We were supposed to do it in the fall, maybe February,” Tomei said. “I hope it comes together.”

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