Jerry Seinfeld Returns With Bee Movie

October 30, 2007 at 8:54 pm Leave a comment

Jerry SeinfeldJerry Seinfeld casually refers to “the TV show” like it was just another resume entry, a vaguely familiar event from his past.

Wait, wasn’t that TV show “Seinfeld”? One of the greatest comedies in TV history? You know, the one with double-dippers, puffy shirts and mimbos?

Seinfeld, it seems, has moved on more than most of his audience. Though “the TV show” ended its historic run in 1998, the perpetual glow of “Seinfeld” has been mostly uninterrupted because its star and namesake has remained largely out of sight like his beloved Superman resting in his Fortress of Solitude.

Seinfeld has even been called “the J.D. Salinger of television,” as Conan O’Brien recently joked.

“I’m doing as much as I possibly can, I promise you,” says Seinfeld, archly defending himself with a laugh in his Manhattan office, where the award statuettes are outnumbered only by the many model cars that dot the room.

The 53-year-old comedian is releasing “Bee Movie,” a film which began as a causal pun made over dinner with Steven Spielberg. A call was then placed to Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks Animation SKG, and the small joke eventually spiraled into a $150 million blockbuster which Seinfeld has spent more than three years writing, producing and voicing the main character.

Seinfeld, of course, hasn’t been doing nothing since “Seinfeld.” He and wife Jessica were married in 1999 and have since had three children. Seinfeld’s mission has generally been to return to being a standup comedian; his relentless work to build a new act was documented in the 2002 film “Comedian.”

But that documentary grossed less than $3 million in limited release. Tens of thousands have seen Seinfeld in comedy clubs across the country contributing a significant chunk of estimated yearly earnings of $60 million, including $15 million for “Seinfeld” residuals, according to Forbes.

To those who wish they saw him more, Seinfeld replies with his characteristic flare for language: “Me too, but I wonder if they would be willing to accept me being not good. I wish I could do more, too, but I can’t do more as good, so I figure I’ll do less, but good.”

For years Katzenberg pitched movie roles to Seinfeld, who had numerous opportunities to star in films. So why did Seinfeld make “Bee Movie” his first feature film and his first major post-“Seinfeld” project?

“One very simple difference, but it made all the difference in the world: This was his idea,” says Katzenberg. “If you look at Jerry’s work, his entire career was always about doing things he authored.”

Katzenberg adds: “Jerry has his own rhythms and his own interests.”

Like the bees depicted in “Bee Movie,” Seinfeld believes in sticking to what you do best, and for him, that’s centered upon the comedic persona he’s sharpened and refined over decades. He would rather leave the acting to the pros. “Tom Hanks is available. He can do it,” he jokes.

Finding a new challenge, though, was imperative.

“That’s why I haven’t made a live action movie,” Seinfeld says, explaining that it would be “too similar to what we did on the show. … And I have no need for the ego gratification of `Hey, I’m in a movie.’ But this medium was so different and interesting that kind of sparked my energy.”

The comedian acknowledges that his energy was low after working on “Seinfeld” for nearly a decade. The painstaking process of creating an animated movie, though, has left him “even more tired than I was before,” he says.

What’s distinctive about “Bee Movie” is how thoroughly it’s imbued with Seinfeld’s sense of humor. The involvement of talent in animated films doesn’t typically go beyond a few days in a sound studio, but “Bee Movie” is essentially Seinfeld in bee form. Though Dreamworks is pitching it as a family movie, Seinfeld never had kids in mind when writing it.

“You should feel like you really spent time with my outlook on silliness, I guess,” he says. “That’s why I tried to put my fingerprint on everything in the movie so it feels like it was made by one person. Sometimes that studio, corporate feel the movies can feel very processed so it feels like generic entertainment.”

Evident is Seinfeld’s love of details (the bees can survive up to about 75-pages of magazine thickness, making the especially thick Italian Vogue the most frightening of weapons), his gift for gymnastic phrasing (his character remarks: “There’s quite a bit of pomp under the circumstances”) and his sometimes overlooked inclination for pushing comedy to surreal ends.

That was most obvious once his “Seinfeld” partner and co-creator Larry David left the show before the last two seasons, leading to some out-there plots (like Kramer hydrating Jerry’s car with his own blood). In “Bee Movie,” the bee voiced by Seinfeld sues honey companies for stealing the bees’ honey.

“I always try to work personally,” he explains. “On the TV show, we never thought we would have an across-the-board appeal we didn’t seek it. We just thought, `Let’s make our little thing and whoever likes it, likes it.’ I tried the same thing with this.”

Seinfeld has a lot riding on “Bee Movie,” and he has aggressively (and creatively) promoted it like bungee-jumping at the Cannes Film Festival and hosting a series of one-minute sketch comedy promos he calls “TV Juniors.”

The unflappable Seinfeld acknowledges: “I’m a little keyed up about the movie’s opening. I think of it as extreme interest in the outcome.”

Once the fanfare of “Bee Movie” has subsided, Seinfeld simply is planning to hit the road again and get back to what he calls his “normal, daily life”: writing and honing his standup act.

Still, he says, “It’s fun to chop down a big tree once in a while. I don’t know if I could live this way all the time, but every once in a while. I think that’s why people run these marathons: `I wonder if I could run that far without dying.’ It’s idiotic, but it’s part of human nature.”

Source: www.cinema-pedia.com

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