Green light from Spielberg pushed Seinfeld into film
CHRIS ATCHISON/METRO TORONTO
Finally, Jerry Seinfeld does comedy about something — just not in the medium most fans of his acclaimed sitcom might expect.
The 53-year-old has spent the past four years producing, writing and starring in Bee Movie, his animated take on life as a hive-dweller with all the Seinfeldian comedic twists one might expect. It’s the most those fans will have seen of him since Seinfeld — rated the best sitcom of all time by TV Guide in 2002 — left the air in 1998.
Since then, the comic has been tending to his three children and doing the stand-up rounds in cities across North America.
“It’s pretty hard to follow that act,” Seinfeld says of his show. “That was a pretty good show for me. That’s my contribution to television and it’s a pretty big one just in terms of the number of episodes that we made ... I like leaving the audience this way, as far as television goes. ... It’s like the athlete who wants to go out with a winning game.”
With Bee Movie, Seinfeld hopes to regain that winning form as Barry Bee Benson, a recent college graduate who ventures out of the hive only to realize that humans steal and sell bee’s honey for profit. But when Benson sues to have all the honey in the world returned to its rightful owners, he realizes the benefits of the bees’ business.
“Even right up until the end, you really feel like you’re looking at a little bee stand-up comic,” Seinfeld explains. “That’s kind of the way he comes off in the movie. That’s the trick, is to pour the liquid into a different glass and have it taste the same.”
The genesis of this particular concoction is another story. At a lunch with Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg and their wives, Seinfeld began tossing out random film ideas, one of which involved a bee-leaves-hive plot and a self-deprecating title.
Spielberg, to Seinfeld’s surprise, gave the idea the thumbs-up and encouraged his friend to pursue.
Four years later, the comedian is doing press for a film that he didn’t have any intention of doing in the first place.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
“I’m drawn to ideas. People ask me, why didn’t you make a movie before? I don’t care about making a movie, I don’t want to make a movie. This project was about working in this totally new medium and, how could I be funny using computer-generated characters?
“I thought, this was a really interesting challenge.”