Bee Movie Press Conference

Attendees: Jerry Seinfeld,Reneé Zellweger, Simon J Smith, Jeffrey Katzenburg

Q: Good afternoon and on behalf of Paramount and DreamWorks, welcome to this press conference for Bee Movie. As you can see we’re joined by a plethora of talent. The director of the film Simon J. Smith, Renée Zellweger, Jerry Seinfeld, and of course naturally Jeffrey Katzenberg. Jeffrey if I can start with you, tell us more details of the now legendary story of the pitch really being a phone call from one of your old mates Mr. Spielberg who was having lunch I believe with the gentleman sitting next to you.

JK: Well em…for 9 years every week.

JS: Not every week.

JK: Yeah, like 10s of millions of Americans, 10s of millions of people all over the world.

JS: Oh, I thought you were going to say you called me every week.

JK: I should have. Maybe we could have got together earlier. I would watch Jerry’s television show and I don’t think if anything I got more laughter out of four years…

JS: Oh, that’s so nice.

JK: I thought I’d call him and I was really glad you know pick up the phone. And here’s the first thing about it. From the moment I called, you always took the call. He’d take the call. I go “Hi Jerry, I have an idea”. He’d say “good tell me”. That’s not what you expect on the other end of the phone. “Tell me what your idea is”. So I would awkwardly pitch an idea for a movie and he’d listen and say “no”. For years, “no”. Once a year and that was it.

JS: Then you would start coming in with charts and graphs. Pictures…

JK: Years ago I came into his office in New York and I had… I’m not doing any phone call I’m gonna really put the full move on here. So I had pictures and drawings and characters and he was incredibly patient and he listened. And when were done, I remember, you actually got up and looked out the window to Central Park you looked down there you turned around and went “no”.

JK: I’d like to think that that moment of hesitation was when the seed was planted

JS: Pause for dramatic effect

JK: 6 months later I get a phone call from Spielberg and he’s outside a restaurant. Eating noisy, I can’t hear him, you know one of those horrible things, “just having dinner with Jerry Seinfeld and he’s pitching the idea of Bee Movie, bees, you know call him.” That was it.

JS: That was it, simple as that.

JK: You should tell it.

JS: It was just a remark that Bee Movie would be a funny title for a movie about bees. It wasn’t a pitch, like I think you should really consider this. It wasn’t anything like that. You know, I thought I was just making jaunty conversation.

Q: That’ll teach you.

JS: And he goes that’s a great idea for a movie and I think he says no matter what you say to him.

JS: Good morning Stephen. “You know, that’s a great idea for a movie”.

Q: Well moving on no. Simon. The bee up to now has been a neglected creature as far as Hollywood’s concerned. So did you guys have to enter a sort of bee world before you could begin work on the animation? Did you have to start thinking with bees, wondering what Bees’ (gr…) and gripes would be?

SS: Yeah I mean I think there’s a mention in the story which is ‘speaking bee’. And we got an expert at MIT and London University to educate us all about bees. And you can see in the movie throughout 90% of it is all about... He’s a luggage handler and we did learn about them and Jerry had a fascination of bees beforehand so we definitely got engrossed in the bee world. And what happened to me is we found out it takes 12 bee lives to make one teaspoon of honey and it’s quite disturbing because I drink honey with tea, so I feel really guilty. I haven’t eaten any honey since.

JS: You really don’t eat honey anymore?

SS: No, I haven’t, I can’t do it. I just feel really guilty about it.

JS: Admittedly you’ve brought all this attention to them. Everyone can finally look at them different now. More respectful of them now. You deserve a little honey for that.

JK: It’s like going back to meat when you’re a vegetarian.

Q: Moving on to Renée now. You’re becoming quite an old hand at these DreamWorks capers after Sharktale; does it get easier to do animation?

RZ: With these guys, no way!

RZ: No way, are you kidding? At least when I go to work with a traditional film you are certain with what’s expected. With these guys it’s a curveballs, fastballs, you have to break your egg in with these team. There’s no slacking, no showing off, I have to be prepared to not read the lines they’d given you the night before to memorize and prepare. You know it’s funny; it’s a different thing to what I had expected. You feel really exposed, I didn’t expect that. I thought it was going to be liberating, just us and a microphone. And that’s the trick; jut you and a micro-phone. And if you can’t do it, it’s just because you have no talent and that’s no excuse. The first experience I had with Jeffrey on the Sharktale movie was delightful, so much fun. It was my introduction into that world. It was very education and just you know a great bit of fun. And then this was completely different. HARD WORK! 4 years, 4 years of hard work!

You know it’s wonderful because we were in a room together all the time so it was ever changing, always evolving cause he comes up with stuff. He comes up with these ideas and has to (put them) out there and see what works. And he still does it. I understand you’re changing the film and we can’t do anything about it.

JS: I am. I am changing a line. Its Jeffrey’s present to me. One line that I thought I could do little better with, asked him if I could change it on the DVD. So the DVD has one line different, and I’m not gonna tell which line it is that’s how we’re gonna sell you the DVD.

JS: It’s gonna say special Jerry Seinfeld cut. (…)

Q: Just before I start taking questions from my colleagues here, so Jerry you’ve had an unconventional (think) into the movie world. After your excellent documentary Comedian you then go and make an animation feature. So you’ve must have had lots and lots of movie offers. Have you just not been interested? Does the big screen not hold much of an attraction for you? Are you quite happy being what you are, a brilliant television comedian?

JS: I am. Nothing really holds much interest for me, because it all requires a lot of work. I did definitely not want to conventionally take the path of TV series, now the movie, it was just—I had a different experience dong the series one reason and also I just like to go a little bit my own way.

Q: So we shouldn’t expect you at one point to go all serious on us and present Seinfeld’s Macbeth?

JS: That’s actually a good idea. That’s a great movie call Spielberg.

JS: No, that’s not gonna happen.

Q: I’m going to start taking questions. And you can probably see we’ve got some smaller journalists with us today. They’re from “Film Streets” a website for under 12s and I promised them they could get a couple of questions in. I know you’ve got a question so fire a way young man.

YM: This question is Simon Smith the director. When you got the idea of the bee movie, did you think it would be a successful film?

SS: Well, you always hope it’ll be a successful film. Well of course Jerry had the idea and I heard that he had been writing a script for DreamWorks animation. The ideas of Jerry’s idiosyncratic observations of our society funneled through the eyes of a bee sounded like a really fun idea. So after I met Jerry I thought this is gonna be a really fun time and so I couldn’t wait to start on the movie. He always wanted people to enjoy it and that’s the main thing the people go into the theatre and have a great time and come out feeling great.

Q: Thank-you. Well, Jerry I gathered that during the course of research for the movie you actually got stung by a bee on the nose. Can you tell us why and how that happened?

JS: Well, I can’t give you the why.

JS: But I can give you the how. I don’t know what’s in the mind of a bee, no matter how much I pretend that I do. I went to a beehive, an (ABA) which is one of those wooden boxes, the man made beehives that farmers use all over to you know make the crops grow, pollinate, you know that how a lot of farming is done, with bees. And I wanted to see what these things looked like. And learn a little about bees from a beekeeper. And this particular bee keeper, a French chap, by the way, felt you didn’t particularly need protective stuff, head gear, if you just handled the bees properly and what he neglected to consider was that even bee keepers want to impress celebrities. So we’re looking at the bees, and he goes, “would you like to see the queen?” and I said well, ya know okay, I dunno. So he starts rifling through these frames. The bees all live in there, and he’s picking’ one up going “nope, no queen there”. And of course the bees get a little irritated. And when they get irritated, there’s a sound, because they all work together, this is the beauty of the bees, and they’re very harmonious. So all the bees, in unison go from (happy bee sound) to (irritated bee sound) like an opera. So he looks at me. And the two of us are standing there in t-shirts and shorts. And he goes “you know what, maybe we should get going” I go okay. And he goes “in fact, you should go right now”.

JS: So I did, but not fast enough. And there was a little bee that was given the mission to get that guy! So I’m running across this field, and I take my hat and I’m swatting at this bee with this hat. No matter how I run or where I go. He’s quick, ya know. He eventually got me in the end, Bing right on the end of my nose.

Q: Does this go under research that I wish I had never done?

JS: No, cause it’s good for promotion

Q: Jerry, you feed off the audience. So how was it being looked in a room doing animation, did you have audience recognition?

JS: I don’t think they locked me. I was pretty much free to go. I was never alone in the studio. I mean we did some sessions alone. Every line that every other actor read in the movie, I performed with them and we would go in the booth together and try to play with it. It just seemed more fun that way. Maybe that fun would come across in other performances.

Q: To quote Renée correctly, did you work together, which is fairly unusual in animation. And can you explain why you did this and the spin on it.

JS: I think that’s what I just explained. It’s more fun to work together and that fun hopefully comes out in the movie.

Q: It’s different from what you did last time isn’t it Renée, you were solitary there weren’t ya?

RZ: Well, you can deviate from the script. You know, it’s his idea and he’s coming’ up with more ideas and they just come flying’ and it beats just reading’ from the thing, very selfishly. It was a great time. Jeffrey probably would have preferred we did it alone as it would have been probably less expensive in wasted studio time. It was a great time because of it.

SS: You get these wonderful reactions that you wouldn’t have normally gotten if Renée had done it alone. I think it is unusual and great that Jerry was there the whole time.

Q: Jeffrey, this has been touched upon already, is this one of these films, where you get much more stuff from the DVD when it comes out because of the nature of the making of it. Simon (recklessly) said to ditch some of the material.

JK: I thought I already answered that question.

JS: We did write and create so many scenes in the movie and experimentation that we didn’t use. I don’t know if it’s more than average or about average.

JK: I think a little bit more because having the writer and the performer in the room and if there was more opportunity for improvisation work I think that was partly was unique about film. There’s a lot of moments and Renée you can talk about it. Like the coffee scene you know there were improvisational moments created there where you know where Renée was talking about how quick she had to be and how challenged she was. What it is for the two of them, they were able to have it. You know you don’t get that in animation very much.

Q: What is more pleasurable for you, the writing of the gag, or the delivery of it?

JS: That’s a good Question, their both different, there both extremely exciting and addictive. It’s like a drug high when you think of something that you think will work, or when you perform something and you think that it does work. I mean there are different stages, I don’t really know which is better, but you need both, that’s for sure.

Q: How surprised was Ray Loita to find himself re-imagined as a honey mogul.

JS: You know, he walked in like this was normal, that he’s come in as himself, I don’t think he has ever played himself in anything and now he’s playing himself but playing a baboon version, you know we made stuff up and he thought this was a totally fantastic thing to do, and that was our great good fortune that you have someone that has a sense of humour, as you all know not everyone does. So he didn’t seem at all surprised or thrown, he said lets just do this. He couldn’t wait to do it, he was sweating, he was giving it so much energy, and he was doing the laughs for it. He said, do you want the Goodfellas laugh, you know.

Q: And John Travolta and Sting share this lovely sense of humour about having themselves mocked.

JS: Sting was in the film, and that was he’s voice was in the film, John I have to call.

Q: So you might not necessarily be hitching a ride in one of his planes then.

JS: Might not, no!

Q: Jeffrey, the whole business of animation that’s just growing, and growing, begs a question of how many is enough, by that I mean releases of animation features in a year because with you guys doing so well, your competitors want to match you buy releasing ever more.

JK: Well I think last year saw the peak of about 15-16 movies, I think this year it’s about half. But you know when you step back and you see that the most popular movies certainly on a worldwide basis, 3 of the top 10/top 12 movies this year are animate films. So these are no longer cartoons that are main for some small portion of the audience, they are for everybody. I think this is a good a representation of how an animated movie can be made by adults, for adults, and at the same time be widely popular with kids, I thin it’s a great fun surprises for Jerry is he made this movie for himself and has he’s own sensibility to it and yet its amazing to see how much fun it is for the kids and to see how much the get. It’s surprising in a way and these films are very mainstream. So how many is enough, there are 500 movies made in a year and 10 animated movies so not very many.

Q: We are now going over to the young kids a Filmstreet again. We will go to this young lady:

Renee, what do you like best about being in films?

RZ: That’s a good question isn’t it? Em, the boys, I mean look at this row right here, not bad. I would look into it! No, it’s the work, I love the work. But is you knew what the day initially, you would think that it’s absolutely insane. You usually start often at 4 in the morning and they carry on until around that time the next day, and I love it. I love the day on the set, I love the collaboration, I love this thing coming together, I love the creative opportunities that I have thought the people that I meet, em I learn a lot, I never stop learning and that probably what I love most about this job.

Q: How exactly did you come up with the idea for this film?

JS: The idea from the film came I think from watching TV. So I would tell your parents that I told you to watch more TV, because that’s where you get movie ideas. Did you ever watch those nature programmes on TV, and they tell you how they live, and where they get there food, and how they survive and I love these shows and I watched one about bees and I thought they live in a very interesting world and I thought it would be a funny, so that’s where it came from.

Q: Simon, what’s next?

SS: I’d love to do something else, and I have been so busy with the film and promoting it I haven’t had a chance to think about it, and after 3 and a half years on the film maybe I’ll take a vacation perhaps, so maybe at the beginning of next year I’ll start thinking about it. But what was great for me is the huge change as a director for me is people saying what do you want to do and I’d say well I can do whatever you want. And they would say that films do you like, and I’d say well I like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid, I like Toy Story, you know, what you want. And they say no you have to choose and it kind of like having to fall in love with something, coz you have to commit fully to have a good relationship with a script. So I guess I will be going on the dating circuit with a few scripts.

Q: Following the success of this film I’m sure you won’t have any problem getting them off the ground. Renee, what are we going to see you in next?

RZ: I think what come up first is Leatherheads with Mr. Clooney, and let’s see. Then there’s Case 19, and then there’s Appaloosa, which I just finished a few days ago with Ed Harris.

Q: The Usual busy schedule. Finally, Jerry are you now up for a year of not doing too much, or have you got the busy fever?

JS: Well not really, next year I will be doing my stand-up comedy shows in the states, in Las Vegas, and im going to be writing a developing a bunch of new things to do in that show and taking it around the county and that actually kind of relaxation for me

Q: Can you give us a little bit more about why that is relaxation, most people would think that that is one of the most sapping and stressful ways of spending an evening steeping out these with just you, a microphone and the audience.

JS: Yeah because there no meetings, and there’s no discussions about should we do this joke or not. You just do it and the audience likes it or they don’t like it and then you’re off to dinner. So that’s why I find it stress less. It’s very pure. A movie is like being a captain of a ship which is nice but then I perform by myself its just surfing on the water and know body really knows what happens.

Q: I suppose it helps that it’s been a long time since you have stepped out on stage to just the sound of you own feet and nothing else.

JS: Yeah I think that’s my natural thing.

Well on that note, ladies and gentlemen, our guests, thank you very much indeed.