I know a lot of you are curious about the new Jerry Seinfeld CGI movie that has him playing a Bee named Barry B. Benson. After all, he’s been everywhere promoting the movie and he’s even on NBC every five minutes pimping the film. And while I was nervous going in to see it… I’m happy to report the movie was pretty good. Mind you, I’m a huge fan of Seinfeld and the film has a ton of his trademark humor and mannerisms.
So the other day I got to participate in a roundtable interview with Jerry and it’s below. We talked about all the usual things and it was great to hear him talk about the movie in person and ask him a few questions. If you're a fan of Jerry's, you'll definitely dig the interview.
As always, you can either read the transcript of the roundtable interview below or download the audio as an MP3 by clicking here. And if you want to watch 10 clips from the movie you can see them here.
“Bee Movie” opens this Friday at theaters everywhere.
Q: All of the marketing seems to be you and not the animation. What was the idea to make you front and center of the campaign?
Jerry Seinfeld: Well, now I think most of the TV stuff features the animation, so the early thing was just really my idea to be silly. And what if you tried to make one of these types of movies live action. What a disaster would it be? So, that was just something I thought of and I convinced Jeffrey to pay for it. I said, ‘Let’s make some trailers that are not what the movie – so, let’s take some scenes from the movie and try to make them with giant, cheap, plaster apparel sets.’
Q: And the TV juniors?
Jerry Seinfeld: The TV juniors was -- that was just another way of trying to – we weren’t quite sure what we were going to do when we made them. We didn’t know where we were going to put them. We thought this could be an Internet thing, but NBC stepped up and they wanted them, so we sold them to them. But, I had seen some other people do some online things like the making of the movie and doing like, daily posts and blogs. Not blogs, but streaming video of what the experience was. So, I thought, lets do it but let’s make it totally fake.
Q: When you were having the initial meeting with Steven Spielberg and the ‘Bee Movie’ subject came up, were there other topics that came up?
Jerry Seinfeld: This was not a meeting. It was just a social dinner and it was an offhanded remark of something I thought might be a funny comment in conversation at the dinner to make him laugh. I didn’t want to make the movie. (Laughs.) He’s the one who thought it was a movie. I didn’t think it was a movie.
Q: Did you have any idea you’d be so hands on with it? It’s such a slow process, did it drive you insane?
Jerry Seinfeld: Insane. Insane. But, then I started to just have to accept that this is what it’s going to be and I just slowly went through it. And then I got more and more involved. And I said to my wife,’ Why do I have to do everything this way?’ Why can’t I find some other way that’s not such torture. And she said, ‘You do the same thing with a box of cookies. You just have to eat the entire box until you are sick of it, y’know?’ I always have to get way in over my head. I wish I could pull the throttle back somehow.
Q: Sort of like that wire stunt in France?
Jerry Seinfeld: Yeah, ‘Why don’t we do something totally insane in France? Why not?’
Q: Difference in TV and Film? Do you have an early memory of seeing something in a theater that shaped you creatively?
Jerry Seinfeld: Probably as far as this kind of thing is concerned, ‘Gulliver’s Travel’s’ I really loved when I was a kid. I remembered the excitement, when you’re a child, when you’re small, the excitement of stories that play with scale. That was the first thing and the only thing I remembered from being a kid that really played with scale. There were always stories with giants when you’re a kid and I was always fascinated with those. I don’t know why that interests us as humans, but this story is about scale in a lot of ways. And I know that kids like things that, where everything is gigantic or everything is miniature. So, that was one of the things that I thought, ‘This would be an interesting thing to play with.’ And the way the movie was made, it’s actually shot in a camera and when you see Barry and he’s big – it’s so skillfully done. Not one person has asked us, ‘Why does Barry seem so big?’ It’s because it’s all done with camera angles. He’s very close to the lens and all the other things are far away, so the scale seems kind of normal. I know that kids like things like ‘Tom Thumb’ or ‘Mighty Mouse,’ because they are small and they relate to that. So, that was a movie I thought of a lot making this.
Q: You wrote the script, produced and are the leading voice? How much is your ideas in the movie?
Jerry Seinfeld: I don’t know. I don’t really keep a chart of those things. A lot of people put a lot of ideas in. I kind like of like to play the captain of the ship and I decide what comes in and what comes out.. And I come up with stuff and everyone comes up with stuff. It’s kind of like ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ remember when they would write, there was the head writer and that’s kind of the role I like to play. Like, I’m in charge of the gate of what gets in. And anyone can throw out anything they want. There are ideas in the movie that people just in the office just threw in. Oh, the idea of calling the judge Bumbleton, so, you’d kind of have an idea of how this trial was going to go. So, I dunno. There is a lot of my stuff in there though, but a lot of other people’s stuff too.
Q: Did you really visit a beekeeper and get stung on the nose? Did you just want to see what the hives look like?
Jerry Seinfeld: Yeah, I wanted to see what they do and what it looks like. And this was some weird French guy who said, ‘Well, you don’t need to wear any of that weird protective equipment. If you handle them in the right way, nothing will go wrong.’
Q: And it got you?
Jerry Seinfeld: Yes.
Q: Between this and ’30 Rock,’ it’s really been about you getting back in the spotlight? Do you sense there is a real demand for people to see you again?
Jerry Seinfeld: I dunno. I don’t think about those kind of things. I try to do whatever I’m doing as well as I can. I dunno. I can’t tell.
Q: Is it good to be back in the spotlight?
Jerry Seinfeld: It’s great. It’s fine. The ride I had on the sitcom was so intergalactic. To start off in something was really intended to be this little boutique thing that became this other thing, it’s hard to match that. We just captured the country – and the last time it was even able, possible to do that. I don’t even know if it’s possible to do that anymore, because things have just fragmented culturally and just portal wise. I dunno if there will ever be another show that could do what we did. So, it all feels kind of familiar to me to tell you the truth. Y’know, there is an old story I like to tell about Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe. I don’t know if you ever heard this story. They were married and he, of course, was this baseball legend. And she’s doing this USO performance on an aircraft carrier. And you’d remember what those shows used to be like, they would get the sexy Hollywood actress to do this cheesecake number and the guys goes beserk. And so, she climbs offstage and he’s standing there waiting for her and the guys are all cheering and she goes, ‘Joe listen to that? Have you ever heard anything like it?’ And, he of course says, ‘Yeah, I have.’ So, people say to me, ‘Can you imagine what it would be like if movie is a big hit?’ And I say, ‘Yes I can.’
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Q: What was the biggest challenge of making this movie?
Jerry Seinfeld: The biggest challenge was, frankly, the story. I found it’s very difficult to sustain a comedy movie for a full-length movie. And if you watch comedies or you watch any movie you know that people struggle with the resolution of the story. It’s the most difficult part of a movie, but comedies in particular tend to run out of gas about 2/3rd of the way through. And then they get into these romantic things and you are kind of having fun as they are get into the premise and then figuring out how to resolve the whole story – ‘The guy and then he professes his feelings and I really loved the girl next store all along.’ And then they go, ‘What happened in the labs? We were having so much fun?’ But I was determined not to do that. And I struggled a long time to find a new -- you have to create something that is fun to end the movie, but keep it silly and funny. So, that was the thing we had a lot of trial and error till we figured that out.
Q: How much did you actually get involved in the casting? Did you actually make the calls to Rene and..?
Jerry Seinfeld: Oh, sure. Rene I practically stalked. That was like, I was like the leopard in the weeds with Rene. I knew her whereabouts at all time. She would go to a screening, I would somehow be there a couple of rows back. ‘Oh, Rene, funny bumping into you here again.’ I wanted her very badly for this. I knew she was the prefect person to play this part.
Q: Was it really that hard to get her?
Jerry Seinfeld: You never know. She’s very busy, she’s very in demand. And there is really nobody quite like her. Especially vocally. There are a lot of great actresses, of course, but not all of them have this kind of vocal skill she has. I mean, when she reads – the voice, it just comes through the screen. Very quickly when you’re watching this movie, you believe the voice is coming out of this dummy. It’s a dummy. This whole thing is a puppet act. These aren’t real people.
Q: Where did Ray Liotta come from?
Jerry Seinfeld: I’ll tell you where it came from. I thought, ‘Who is the last person you would expect to see waltzing into an animated movie as themselves?’ And it was Ray Liotta.
Q: Since ‘Seinfeld’ the dating scene has changed so much?
Jerry Seinfeld: Really?
Q: Well, with text messaging and stuff like that.
Jerry Seinfeld: Oh, yeah you’re right. We would have had fun with that. We definitely had fun with that. There is so much confusion. Anything where there is potential for confusion was always great for us.
Q: Can you imagine a standup bit for junkets? Why do they call it a junket?
Jerry Seinfeld: Well, you know why they call it a junket? The first syllable tells you why. No, unfortunately, no one can relate to this experience. I wish they could.
Q: When Barry is floating in the pool and his parents are telling him to get a job, was that ‘The Graduate’?
Jerry Seinfeld: Yes, of course. No, there was a time when I first conceived of the film that I was going to do a complete metaphor for ‘The Graduate,’ all the way, but most of it we ended up loosing. But that scene I still liked so much and I liked that movie so much I left it in.
Q: Were there any thoughts of making it more musical or having musical numbers?
Jerry Seinfeld: There was and there was a huge, very elaborate musical production number that I ended up having to get rid of, because it just threw off the plot drives at a crucial moment. But, there is the song that Matthew and I did that’s at the end of the credits.
Q: Will that be on the DVD?
Jerry Seinfeld: Yes, yes it will, but it’s not fully animated.
Q: Is this a more innocent character than you usually play?
Jerry Seinfeld: Hmmm. It didn’t start off that way, but another thing I learned was that movie audiences weren’t liking me in that TV version. I had to kind of take the edge off, because it’s the way he looks. He’s younger and cuter than I am and they didn’t want him to be quite so nasty. He was nastier at a certain point of making this and I had to take that off.
Q: Now, that it’s finished up are you thinking of what you’re going to do next?
Jerry Seinfeld: No. (Laughs.)
Q: Do you think Stephen Colbert will appreciate the anti-bear message in this movie? That’s one of his bits. He hates bears.
Jerry Seinfeld: I didn’t know that. That’s funny. Thank you.