Bee Movie - Jerry Seinfeld interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
JERRY Seinfeld talks about how a dinner meeting with Steven Spielberg helped to get Bee Movie made and how he got stung on the nose by a bee during his research.
He also talks about how he chooses his movie roles, the highs of thinking about a good line and then delivering it and why performing stand-up is a form of relaxation for him…
I gather Steven Spielberg pitched your idea originally to Jeffrey Katzenberg at DreamWorks Animation following a dinner the two of you had?
Jerry Seinfeld: It was just a remark that Bee Movie would be a funny title for a movie about bees. It wasn’t a pitch, like: “I think you should really consider this.” It wasn’t anything like that. I thought I was just making jaunty conversation [laughs]. And he said: “That’s a great idea for a movie…” And I think he says that no matter what you say to him. You know: “Good morning Steven…” That’s a great idea for a movie!
Q. Where did the idea for Bee Movie come from?
Jerry Seinfeld: The idea for the film I think came from watching TV. So I would tell your parents that I told you to watch more TV because that’s where you get movie ideas! But I used to watch these nature shows where they tell you about an animal, how they live and where they get their food and how they survive. I love these shows and I watched one about bees and thought they lived in a very interesting world. And I thought it would be a funny place to tell a story.
Is it true that you’re still changing things, even though it’s been released in cinemas in America?
Jerry Seinfeld: I am changing a line, which is Jeffrey [Katzenberg]‘s present to me. I have one line that I thought I could do something a little better with and I asked him if I could change it for the DVD. So, he said “yes”. So, the DVD is going to have one line that’s different – and I’m not going to tell you what the line is – because that’s how we’re going to sell you the DVD. But it’s going to say: “Special Jerry Seinfeld cut: one new line.”
I gather that you got stung by a bee on the nose during your research for the film? Can you give us the why and how that happened?
Jerry Seinfeld: Well, I can’t give you the why [laughs]. I don’t know what’s in the mind of a bee as much as I pretend that I do. I went to a beehive – the wooden boxes, the man-made beehives that farmers use all over to make the crops grow and pollinate. That’s how a lot of farming is done with bees. So, I wanted to see what these things looked like and maybe learn a little something about bees from a beekeeper. This particular beekeeper, a French chap by the way, felt that you don’t need any protective headgear if you just handle the bees properly. What I neglected to consider was that even beekeepers want to impress celebrities!
So, as we’re looking at the bees he said: “Would you like to see the queen?” I said: “OK, I don’t know…” So, he starts rifling through these frames looking for the queen and of course the bees get a little irritated. When they get irritated there’s a sound, because they all work together – this is the beauty of the bees, they’re very harmonious. So, all the bees in unison go from [replicates harmonious buzzing sound] to [replicates menacing buzzing], so there’s this really scary, opera-like cathedral sound. And there’s the two of us standing there in T-shirts and shorts, without so much as a ring on to protect us. He says: “You know what? Maybe we should get going… [Laughs] In fact, you should go right now!” So, I did – but not fast enough. There was a little bee who was given the mission: “Get that guy!” So, I’m running across this field and using my hat to swat at this bee. But no matter how I ran or where I went, he was quick. And he eventually got me right on the end of my nose.
Did that spot of research go down on the list of things you wish you’d never done?
Jerry Seinfeld: No, because it’s good for promotion!
You obviously love an audience, so what was it like being locked in a room and voicing an animated character? It can be a lonely experience I’d imagine, so did you find yourself thirsting for the audience recognition?
Jerry Seinfeld: Yeah it’s different but I don’t think they ever locked me! I think I was pretty much free to go. I did hear a little click from time to time. “Ready to record and click.” We did some sections alone but every line that every other read in the movie I would perform with them and we’d go in the booth together and play with it. It just seemed more fun that way and that maybe that fun would come across in the performances.
Q. How surprised was Ray Liotta to find himself re-imagined as a honey mogul?
Jerry Seinfeld: Um, you know he was just completely… he walked in like this was normal. I don’t think he’s ever played himself in anything – and not only himself but play a buffoon version of himself and be totally made fun of. But he totally thought this was a fantastic thing to do and that was our great good fortune – that you had someone that has a sense of humour because as everyone knows, not everyone does. He didn’t seem at all surprised or thrown by it, he just came in and said: “Yeah, let’s do this.” He was sweating. He was performing with such energy when he was doing the laughs for it… in fact, he said: “Do you want the Goodfellas laugh?”
Q. Did John Travolta and Sting share this lovely sense of humour about having themselves mocked?
Jerry Seinfeld: Sting was in the film. That’s his voice, so he was into it. But John I have to call! No, I know John and he has a good sense of humour.
You’ve so far had an unconventional entry into the movie world following your documentary, Comedian. You then went and made an animation feature. Does the big screen really not hold much of an attraction for you? Are you happy being what you are?
Jerry Seinfeld: I am. Nothing really holds much interest for me because it all requires a lot of work. But I did definitely not want to conventionally take the path of TV series, now the movies. I had a different experience doing the TV series for one reason. But also, I just always like to try and go a little bit my own way.
Q. What’s more pleasurable for you – the writing of the gag or the delivery of it?
Jerry Seinfeld: Good question, tough question. They’re both different. Both are extremely exciting and addictive – it’s almost like a drug high when you think of something that you think will work or when you perform something and you feel that it does work. They’re stages of the same experience but they are different and I don’t really know which is better. But you need both, that’s for sure.
Q. Are you looking forward to a year of not doing very much after this or have you got a busy schedule ahead?
Jerry Seinfeld: Not really… well next year I’m going to be performing my stand-up comedy show in the States, in Las Vegas. I’m going to be writing and developing a bunch of new things to do in that show and taking it around the country. That’s actually kind of relaxation for me.
Q. Why is that relaxation? Is it not a sapping and stressing way of spending an evening with you, the microphone and an audience…
Jerry Seinfeld: Because there’s no meetings! And there’s no discussions about should we do this joke or not? You just do it and the audience likes it or they don’t like it and then you’re off to dinner. So, that’s why I find it stress-less. No, it’s very pure. A movie is kind of like being the captain of a ship, which is nice, but when I perform by myself it’s just surfing on the water and nobody really knows what happens.
- Buy the 2-disc collector's DVD (Amazon)
- Buy the 1-disc DVD (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Jerry Seinfeld interview
- Renée Zellweger interview
- Jeffrey Katzenberg and Simon J Smith interview
- Bee Movie photo gallery
- Bee Movie UK Premiere photos
- Read our preview and watch 4 minutes
- Jerry Seinfeld performs Cannes stunt
- Jerry Seinfeld's Cannes stunt in photos