Alumni screenwriters team with Billy Crystal on "Parental Guidance"

 Billy Crystal with Lisa Addario '90 and Joe Syracuse '90

Billy Crystal with Lisa Addario '90 and Joe Syracuse '90

‌Success is hard to come by in Hollywood.

Screenwriters Lisa Addario ’90 and her husband, Joe Syracuse ’90, learned early on that it’s important to mark every accomplishment, no matter how small – usually with cake.

Now they have a big reason to celebrate.

Their first feature film, “Parental Guidance,” starring Billy Crystal as a washed-up baseball announcer and Bette Midler as his wife, was released in December. Reviews from movie-goers have been solid, and the film, with a production budget of $25 million, has already brought in $70 million. It even beat Tom Cruise’s “Jack Reacher” in its first weeks of release.

“The star power of the cast is unusual for a film of its size,” Syracuse said. “There wasn’t a lot of advertising, no billboards. And it didn’t have a premiere. But people went out and found it. They sought us out.”

The film, about the relationship between two 60-somethings and their three young grandchildren, struck a chord. When the grandparents are called on to care for the kids, the adults are confronted with a whole new way of parenting – one where the kids are often calling the shots. Naturally, conflicts arise.

“It’s been amazing to hear how people have connected with the story,” Syracuse said. “In it took me by surprise. It wasn’t something I was prepared for, but it meant a great deal to me.”

View the trailer for “Parental Guidance.”

Parental Guidance PosterThe idea for the script was Crystal’s; it took Addario and Syracuse five years to write. The parents of two kids themselves, they culled many of the film’s funniest moments from their own lives and the lives of their friends and neighbors in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake neighborhood.

The couple met during freshman orientation and have been in Hollywood ever since. They have worked together on numerous television pilots, film treatments and independent films, including the well-received “Lover Girl,” which debuted at the Toronto Film Festival.

Next up for them is a smaller film that they co-wrote about women’s beach volleyball. Syracuse laughs that he’d love the opportunity to pen a sequel to “Parental Guidance.”

“Here in Hollywood, you have to have 10 things going to really make it work,” he said. “But we like it that way. We’re here because we have stories to tell.”

That will, of course, mean more cake.