Ben Schwartz is a struggling comedian who moves home and becomes fast friends with his (often) tipsy dermatologist played by Billy Crystal in the new movie Standing Up, Falling Down, and EW has your first exclusive look at how a boomer and a millennial can coexist in 2020. Hint: enjoying a joint can break many barriers.
Executive producer and co-star Schwartz spoke with EW on what it was like to work with the When Harry Met Sally and Monsters Inc star, including what movies he would like to jump into from Crystal’s filmography and the time they visited the synagogue Crystal got bar mitzvah’d in.
Standing Up, Falling Down premieres in theaters and on-demand on Feb. 21. It was directed by Matt Ratner and written by Peter Hoare. It also stars Eloise Mumford as Scott’s (Schwartz) ex, Grace Gummer, Nate Corddy, Jill Hennessy, Caitlin Mcgee, and David Castañeda.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You spoke to EW previously about Crystal hand-picking you to be his co-star for this movie. Let’s say you stayed at your age right now. What other Billy Crystal movie would you want to be his co-star in and why, using his whole filmography?
BEN SCHWARTZ: I get Bruno in When Harry Met Sally. I would want to play with Daniel Stern and Billy Crytal in City Slickers, that would be insane. And Monsters Inc., but I couldn’t do Sully. My mind goes straight to animation so quickly. But I would never want to replace any of those characters because the movies perfect with them. Throw Momma From the Train, I just watched that recently again. It’s so well done. Danny DeVito is directing it. it is so fun. It was a movie that Barry Sonnenfeld might have DP’d. I would want to jump into those movies even in a cameo or something like that.
You’ve said this before about working with Billy, how you couldn’t pass up an opportunity to work with somebody who you grew up watching. I grew up watching Monsters Inc. Even then, I could definitely say that he’s still a household name. I think with how our attention spans are now, the fact that we all still know Billy is a testament to the work that he’s still putting in.
BEN SCHWARTZ: He’s incredible. What it is about him is that his movies are everlasting. Like those movies from that Rob Reiner era. Like Spinal Tap. Oh yes I would do anything to be in Spinal Tap. when you watch this film, he’s obviously hilarious, but he also brings such heart to each one of the roles that he plays. You want him to succeed so badly because you see the real emotion everything with everything he brings. I remember we did this thing for the Friar’s Club. I was there and they gave them this award. You can see all the people just admired him. So it’s really like generation after generation.
Let’s take a step back for a bit and talk about more about Standing Up, Falling Down. What was the shoot like? When and how long was the shoot?
The shoot was 21 days. I think I worked every day on it. It was in New York in Queens and Long Island. A lot of the movie itself takes place in Long Island. Funny thing is, you know, Billy’s from Long Island. For the shoot, we went to a synagogue and that’s where he got bar mitzvah’d. All these crazy things came together during the movie.
With such a limited time on the movie set, what did you and Billy do as prep to get into your roles?
We met a couple of times once or twice beforehand. We didn’t have much time since I was shooting Night School until almost the day we were filming. So we talked on the phone, we met in person once and then we worked on the script together over the phone with the writer Peter Hoare, who’s lovely. That was really helpful too, because we had very similar notes. The day came when it was time to act and we were already loose. Our language was so similar that it was off to the races immediately. Matt Ratner was the director. He said it was a huge load off his shoulders to see that that part was taken care of. So it was really helpful to chat up and become friends.
In the movie, you have to be a struggling comedian who moves home from California. Was there ever a moment in your journey into comedy where you also had to face that battle with whether you should give up what you’re doing or not?
Yeah, god at the beginning. And even still. Of course not as much as in the beginning. There’s so much doubt. I mean, anytime you go on stage and you fail, you think it’s over. All I wanted to do was this, so I put myself into a kind of 24/7 work cycle. I was working on jokes for Letterman at 6am. This was when I was a page for Letterman the whole day. I was then an intern at UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade). Then I took classes at UCB. I just wanted to do it so badly.
At the beginning, you fail so much, the only way to kind of learn for what we were doing as improv, you gotta go, you gotta fail, you gotta learn, you gotta get back up there, you got to take a risk, until you kind of find a rhythm even comfortable on stage. Even now, talking to some my friends who are very successful, it’s like, there’s always that first day when you get in there, you’re like, holy shit. Have I been faking it this whole time? Can I do this again? Am I really able to do this role? Am I able to write this movie?
Your character Scott Rollins has a little bit of a, I wouldn’t say an obsession, but he really likes Howard the Duck. It’s a movie that possibly not many people have top of mind anymore. Is there any movies for you that are your guilty pleasures?
There are definitely movies I watch over and over and over again, but they are definitely not guilty pleasures. I’ve watched the movie Up about a billion times. I’ve seen Back to the Future probably 100 times. Dumb and Dumber, too. Remember those small TVs that could have a VHS tape at the bottom of it? So when my sister came home from college, she brought it back. I took the little TV and put it in our bathroom closet. So anytime I was going to the bathroom, I could watch a little bit of Dumb and Dumber [Laughs].