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Bette Midler returns to film, and child care, in 'Parental Guidance'

Bette Midler plays a grandmother caring for her grandkids with Billy Crystal as her husband.

November 03, 2012|By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times
  • Actors Billy Crystal, left, and Bette Midler in "Parental Guidance."
Actors Billy Crystal, left, and Bette Midler in "Parental Guidance." (20th Century Fox )

Bette Midler has been nominated for Oscars, sold tens of millions of albums and headlined a major Las Vegas stage show. But the 66-year-old says that despite her resume, she can barely land Hollywood movie roles anymore.

"I don't get offers — I usually take what is offered to me," she insists, speaking via telephone from her New York home — a house she says her 1993 film "Hocus Pocus" built. "The movie business is a young person's game. I don't think they make movies about people my age anymore. Meryl [Streep] gets most of the jobs."

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Wary of sounding like "an old bitch whining again," Midler says she understands that moviegoers these days crave films about superheroes "dressed in suits that go clank-clank-clank up the street."

"And who can blame the studios? That's what the shareholders want — blockbusters."

But then sometimes something comes along that's a no-brainer. When Midler was offered a role in "Parental Guidance" — a PG comedy co-starring Billy Crystal and directed by Andy Fickman — she immediately signed on. She had just completed a two-year, 300-show run performing "The Showgirl Must Go On" at Caesars Palace, and was in need of a laugh.

"It was a long slog in Las Vegas," Midler says. "The crash came and people were fleeing, so it was a rough couple of years. I was happy to head to a movie set because I really enjoy the process — and I enjoy the food there. I really look forward to a breakfast burrito."

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In "Parental Guidance," which hits theaters Christmas Day, Midler and Crystal play Diane and Artie, grandparents tasked with baby-sitting their three rambunctious grandchildren. The film, which has fun with the clashing parenting style between the generations, is the first live-action role in four years for Midler, who in the last decade has largely had supporting roles in such movies as "The Women" and "The Stepford Wives."

"I was glad ['Parental Guidance'] was a studio picture. A lot of the stuff I get offered is made for like 15 cents and two nickels," said Midler, whose biggest box office success was 1996's "The First Wives Club," co-starring Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton.

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The "Parental Guidance" producers were eager for Midler to get involved with the film, inviting her to design her character's costume. Midler envisioned Diane as the kind of woman who "doesn't go around wearing Yohji Yamamoto, but takes care of her hair and nails and shops at Loehmann's." She also takes pole dancing lessons with her friends in her living room.

"That was a real drag, let me tell you," Midler says. "That stuff is hard. I'm a classicist. Give me a ballet barre."

The role, of course, also required her to interact a lot with young children, including 13-year-old Bailee Madison, who Midler says reminded her of her own daughter with husband Martin von Haselberg — Sophie, now 25.

"My daughter is the boss of herself," Midler says. "We were helicopter parents, but as a result of that, my daughter likes to spend time with us now. The food we serve is very good and we have a comfortable home and didn't move a thing in her bedroom."

Midler doesn't have any new movie projects lined up, but says she's keeping busy: After reading Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards' memoir, the actress-singer became inspired to learn the guitar herself. She's also preparing for the red carpet unveiling of "Parental Guidance" in Hollywood next month.

"I'm already starving myself for the premiere," she quips.

amy.kaufman@latimes.com

Amy Kaufman

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