Comedians Rock, Seinfeld on hand to promote film



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Actor Jake Gyllenhaal attends a photocall yesterday for his film Zodiac, which is screening at the Cannes Film Festival in France.


Andrew Medichini/associated press

Chris Rock, left, and Jerry Seinfeld ham it up at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday.

Forget the tuxedo. Jerry Seinfeld made his big appearance at the Cannes Film Festival wearing a fuzzy bumblebee suit and black tights.

“You know, one thing I hate is any kind of movie promotion that smacks of desperation in any way,” the 53-year-old comedian said, before jumping from the roof of an eight-storey luxury hotel, arms and legs flailing, heading down to the beach on a cord.

Seinfeld’s Bee Movie is the latest DreamWorks Animation film to dramatize the secret life of a pesky insect (following Antz). It doesn’t open until November, but Seinfeld was in Cannes yesterday showing 30 minutes of highlights. He has spent the past four years developing the film, writing the script and giving voice to its leading role.

His character, Barry B. Benson, is an ambitious young bee who dreams of life beyond the hive. After discovering that humans have stolen honey from bees through the ages, he takes the human race to court to try to right the injustice.

Other voices include Chris Rock as a mosquito trying to avoid being squished on a truck window, Renée Zellweger as a human florist who inspires a cross-species crush in Benson, and Matthew Broderick as Benson’s best friend.

Before the stunt, Seinfeld worked the microphone at a Cannes theatre where he screened the rough footage. The press corps tried to engage him in a little standup comedy.

“I would like to know if ‘to bee or not to bee’ is the theme of the movie,” one reporter asked.

“That’s a joke we also tried,” Seinfeld quipped.

Another journalist ventured: “Will be there be a ‘Cee’ and a ‘Dee’ movie?”

Seinfeld gestured to Rock and suggested: “Why don’t we handle the humour aspect?”

Rock, who voiced Marty the zebra in Madagascar, said Bee Movie was different from most other DreamWorks creations because the humour is all Seinfeld’s.

“This one has a singular vision, that’s what I really like about it,” Rock, 42, said. “Most animated movies are made by committee, and the comedy is scattered. They’re great, but this one feels like a handmade suit.”

Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., said watching Seinfeld’s “creative process is amazing, something akin to seeing a world-class athlete up close and personal.

“My belief in the film and confidence is that Jerry is actually going to bring animation to a whole new audience of people who may have not thought of these as for them, and at the same time it will continue to work as a family film,” he said.

In one hilarious courtroom scene, Benson berates Sting (voiced by the singer) for stealing his moniker from the bee community. He narrowly escapes death at the hands of humans who swat at him with magazines — and he proclaims hefty Italian Vogue to be especially perilous.

Meanwhile, the possibility of having the Cannes Film Festival without prizes was raised Wednesday — albeit jokingly — by Stephen Frears, president of the festival’s award-giving jury.

“Maybe we’ll give no prizes,” said the British director of The Queen, High Fidelity and Dirty Pretty Things. “We will refuse to sit in judgment.”

Frears, who has brought several films to Cannes but has never won the top prize, offered another motive for holding back the Palme d’Or — “I’m very, very jealous.”

“I’m sure I’ll get over it,” he said.

The nine jurors, who include Canadian actor/director Sarah Polley, Nobel Prize winning Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk and actresses Maggie Cheung and Toni Collette, will spend the next nine days watching, arguing and deciding who will take home the trophies when the 60th Cannes festival wraps up on May 27.

Contenders for the coveted Palme d’Or include Wong Kar-wai’s English-language debut My Blueberry Nights, Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof and the Coen Brothers No Country For Old Men.

On the festival’s first day, the jury members told a news conference that they were all working in harmony — at least for now.

“I will be very curious to see how we all end up — we start off like this and maybe terrible things will start to come out,” said Frears. “So far, so good.”

The other jurors are French actor-director Michel Piccoli, Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako, Portuguese actress Maria de Medeiros and Italian director Marco Bellocchio.

Jurors said they were undaunted by having to choose a winner from among 22 films in official competition — although several professed a reluctance to judge fellow film artists.

“Film isn’t a competitive sport,” said Polley, who made her first visit to Cannes at age 17 for her turn in Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter.

The Toronto-based director arrives in Cannes on a high. Her directorial debut Away From Her, starring Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent, is currently in theatres and has been met with universal acclaim.