By EW Staff
August 11, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
The Spongebob Squarepants Movie: Paramount Pictures



When he signed on for Spongebob’s first big- screen outing, Jeffrey Tambor had no idea he would become a ‘toon titan. ”I didn’t know how pervasive it was in our culture,” he says. ”I was in an elevator with this kid recently. So I told him, ‘You know, I’m going to be in the SpongeBob movie,’ and…well…not since James Dean, you know? It was something similar.” Tambor earns that iconic status in Sponge lore by lending his pipes to an undersea monarch with serious issues. ”I play King Neptune, this overweening control freak,” says Tambor. ”He’s also somewhat follically impaired.” And he’s also lost his crown, so SpongeBob and his starfish buddy Patrick go on a mission to retrieve it.

For his part, Tambor was happy to get some ‘toon time — but he’s always appreciated the power of ink and pen. ”My first cartoon, I had to be carried out crying,” he says. ”It was ‘Bambi.’ It’s like the great American wound: the death of Bambi’s mother. ‘Run, Bambi, run!”’ Is he trying to tell us that SpongeBob gets shot by a hunter? ”No, no. No one will be carried crying out of this movie. You have my guarantee.”

WHAT’S AT STAKE Not all TV ‘toons are box office smashes (think Disney’s ”Teacher’s Pet”), but c’mon, how many have ol’ Bob’s see-worthiness?