A week ago, Jerry Seinfeld was in a strange place. ”I’ve never had an experience like this,” he said while waiting for the opening of his animated baby, Bee Movie, which he co-wrote, produced, and stars in as Barry, a genial worker bee who ventures out of his hive and into New York City. ”The last couple of weeks, sitting around, waiting for the movie to come out, have been really weird.” (Bee Movie hits theaters — finally — tomorrow.) To help Seinfeld while away the time, we distracted him with a few questions about bees, the pitfalls of overhype, and the magic touch of Steven Spielberg.
ENETERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When the deal for Bee Movie got announced in 2003 and DreamWorks honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg said it was going to open in 2007, I remember thinking, That’s forever from now. The world could look like Blade Runner by then!
JERRY SEINFELD: That’s what I thought too! In fact, when we were designing the Renée Zellweger human character and we were looking at hairstyles and clothes, I thought, Who knows what women are going to look like in 2007! They might all have shaved heads and one eye!
Were you surprised at how long and hard the work was?
I was surprised by how difficult writing the screenplay was, because it was a lot harder than writing a sitcom. I think that’s because a sitcom is shorter, and you don’t have to wrap everything up every week. Writing a movie is like doing the pilot episode and series finale all in one. And those are usually the two worst episodes of a TV show.
So why bees?
I love utopian societies, which is what they live in — it seemed like a very ’60s corporate environment to me, where people believed in the company, and government, and society. I love that. To me, utopia is an old Jack Lemmon movie. Growing up, I thought that would be the ultimate life, to have a convertible and work in an office in Manhattan.
What was it like working with Steven Spielberg at DreamWorks? Did he help you out a lot?
He did. He adjusted my acting in some scenes, and he made some huge plot adjustments that were very, very key to us solving the story.
Well, this is embarrassing to tell you, but I’ll tell you. At one point in the movie, we have this adventure sequence with a plane. But it all got kind of action-adventurey. It felt like a Raiders of the Lost Ark kind of scene. And Steven watched it one day and he said, ”What happened to the silly movie?” And I said, ”Well, this is the action part.” He says, ”No, you gotta keep the silly going all the way.” So as a comedy person, I was quite embarrassed to be told that, you know, you’re supposed to be funny here. We eventually figured it out.
NEXT PAGE: Will they ever make more Seinfeld episodes?
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So Spielberg fixed your ending?
JERRY SEINFELD: Right. [SPOILER ALERT! Skip to the next question if you haven’t seen the movie yet.] And the other thing was I didn’t have the bees rescuing the plane [at the end of the movie]. That was Spielberg. It used to be that they just come to the airport and they make the flower on the runway, and that’s what saved the day. But [Spielberg] said, ”I want to see the bees fly up and rescue the plane.” So that was his, too.
You have said you won’t do another sitcom. Would you do another animated movie?
It depends. Let’s see how the audience likes this one. To me, the joke isn’t told yet, so I can’t really tell you what I’ve got, till it’s out there.
Are you up for doing a sequel if Bee Movie is successful?
Eh, I’m not much of a sequel guy. I don’t like going to them, I don’t believe in the idea of them. I don’t really think there’s another great story to tell about bees. But you never know.
Would you ever act in a straight-up movie? Say, an indie with somebody like Wes Anderson?
A guy like that I would! I don’t think they think of me. I don’t think they think I would do it. But there’s really a lot of people who can do that better than me.
You’ve been everywhere talking up this movie — Cannes, Oprah, and those NBC ads. Do you worry that it might be too much Jerry?
It’s definitely too much for me. But it’s a weird environment now where you don’t really know where people’s attention is anymore. It used to be you could advertise on TV, and you knew people would see it, but that’s not true anymore.
Do you worry about backlash?
I did worry about it. But I asked a few press and marketing people about that, and not one of them was even slightly concerned. It can backfire if the product isn’t good, but we know we have a good movie, so we’re not afraid to crow about it.
So what’s next?
A lot of blank pages in the appointment book.
Were you serious when you recently floated the idea of doing one more episode of Seinfeld?
Uh, I was. But I don’t think it can happen now.
It would’ve had to happen because this is the last DVD coming out [Season 9 of Seinfeld and the box set Seinfeld: The Complete Series will hit stores on Nov. 6], so now would’ve been the time to do it. Obviously, with the movie, it wasn’t a good opportunity. There were too many things happening at the same time.
So with this movie and the DVD coming out does it feel like a chapter’s coming to an end in your life?
I certainly hope so.
And after four long, hard years, is making a movie all it’s cracked up to be?
Nothing is. You know that.
Watch Seinfeld, Chris Rock, and others explain why exactly bees are funny on EW.com’s video coverage of Bee Movie‘s New York premiere.