On May 14, 1998, Jerry Seinfeld’s popular sitcom, Seinfeld, went off the air. During the past nine years, the comedian got married, had a family, and made sporadic appearances on TV. But this year he’s definitely back in the public eye. This fall he guest-starred in the second-season première of 30 Rock, and Bee Movie, the animated film he has worked tirelessly on for over four years is about to open. In the picture Seinfeld voices Barry B Benson, a bee who is so incensed when he discovers people are stealing their honey that he decides to sue the Human race. As with all of his projects, he also wrote and produced the movie.
Q: Is it true that the idea for this film came out of a casual conversation over dinner with Steven Spielberg?
A: Yes. It was just a social dinner and it was an offhanded remark of something I thought might be a funny comment to make him laugh. I didn’t want to make the movie. [he laughs]. He’s the one who thought it was a movie. I didn’t think it was a movie.
Q: Animation is such a slow process, did it drive you insane?
A: Insane. But, then I started to accept that this is what it’s going to be and then I got more and more involved. 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.’ I always have to get way in over my head.
Q: How much did you get involved in the voice casting? Did you actually make calls to Renée Zellweger about playing Barry’s Human friend, Vanessa?:
A: Oh, sure. I practically stalked Renée. I knew her whereabouts at all time. She would go to a screening, and I would somehow be there a couple of rows back, ‘Oh, Renée, funny bumping into you here again.’ I wanted her very badly for this. I knew she was the perfect person to play Vanessa, especially vocally. There are a lot of great actresses, of course, but not all of them have this kind of vocal skill she has. Her voice just comes through the screen.
Q: Where did Ray Liotta come from?
A: 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: Between this and 30 Rock, it’s really been about you getting back in the spotlight? Is it good to be back?
A: It’s great. The ride I had on the sitcom was so intergalactic. To start off in something that 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 I don’t even know if it’s possible to do that anymore. So, it all feels kind of familiar to me to tell you the truth. There is an old story I like to tell about Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe. They were married and he, of course, was this baseball legend. And she’s doing this USO performance on an aircraft carrier, and 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.’