Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
The Pink Panther News Conference -- okay, i'm late
By Julian Roman
The Pink Panther Begins Production
MGM held a press conference at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel to kick off the start of production for their remake of The Pink Panther. The film stars Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau, who also co-wrote the screenplay with director Shawn Levy. Martin and Levy worked together on last year’s comedy hit Cheaper by the Dozen. The press conference included all of the principal cast members and the film’s producer. In attendance were Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, Beyonce, Jean Reno, Emily Mortimer, Kristen Chenoweth, and producer Robert Simmonds. The Pink Panther is set for US release on July 22, 2005.
How should this film be referred to? Is it a remake, a sequel, an update, a reinterpretation? What are we working on here?
Steve Martin: I don’t know? Who wants to answer that question?
Robert Simmonds: I can take that one.
Steve Martin: Sure, it’s a new story…
Shawn Levy: It’s a reinterpretation, I think.
Steve Martin: That’s very important. That’s R-E-I-N…
Robert Simmonds: It’s not a sequel, prequel, or remake. What Steve has done, is taken the essence of different characters, come up with his own story, his own reinterpretation of these characters. We’re trying to do something that’s very contemporary, very fresh, essentially very original.
Steve, with Bringing Down the House Eleven coming up, Cheaper by the Three Dozen…
Steve Martin: None of those are in the works.
How many Pink Panthers are you going to be doing? Can one man have so many franchises?
Steve Martin: I was thinking it’s not quite the 21st century, it’s sort of just edged into it, you know in four or five years then I’ll be dead. All I can tell you is we are having a lot of fun right now. We’re working on the script, rehearsing, and we’re laughing. You know, that’s a good sign. Aren’t we laughing?
Shawn Levy: I would add to that part of what makes Steve so interesting in this role is that, this is the flattery part of the morning, is that Steve is playing the role and written the screenplay. The whole tone of this reinvention is distinctly Steve’s.
This is for Beyonce. How was it for you to decide to take time out of your music and do this movie?
Beyonce: Well, I think it was especially a no brainer. I’m absolutely a huge fan of Steve Martin and this has been a wonderful experience already. Just in rehearsals, I know we’ve been laughing. I don’t know how I’m going to say my lines because it’s hilarious. I’ve been having a great time. I’m really excited to be here.
You said it was going to be a contemporary story. Will there be a reference to the recent diplomatic tensions between France and the US? Will it be shot here in New York and Paris? Also, is there a cameo by David Beckham?
Shawn Levy: The film will be shot, half in New York, Half in Paris. We’re shooting in various locations around Manhattan. Among them, Times Square, Fifth Avenue, very kind of out of the way, conspicuous locations. The movie is very much of this moment. The sense of humor, the things that it references, the whole context of this new Pink Panther is very much now. That said, we won’t be delving into particularly complex, salient, recent political issues, because this is above all, a very funny movie. Finally, Beckham will not be in the film. Ultimately there were scheduling hiccups that couldn’t be overcome.
Clouseau’s character has never been to New York City?
Shawn Levy: That is one of the…
Steve Martin: Yes, that’s a big first. That’s your angle! Go with that! Clouseau in Manhattan! You could say that off mic (referring to Kevin Kline) He said, frog out of water.
Kevin Kline: I don’t say that in the movie.
Steve Martin: Actually, MGM thinks we’re doing a comedy, but we’re doing a highly political film. We have two scripts. There’s the script they see and the script we shoot.
Steve, what do you think Peter Sellers would make of your involvement in this?
Steve Martin: Well, all I know is that I met him once and he was very nice to me. I think that says it all. He spoke to me, comedian to comedian. He was very friendly. He was, you know, under a lot of critical pressure and health pressure at the time too. I don’t know. I often here that people are going to remake The Jerk. I have no qualms about that.
Do you find the Sellers legacy at all intimidating, to live up to that?
Steve Martin: Well, I did for a long, long time. Once I found my own voice in it, I felt more comfortable. I feel really good now. Until you asked that question, now I feel sick.
What’s the plan as far as the rating? Is it going to be more of a PG-rating? Or is it more risqué humor?
Robert Simmonds: I’ll take that. Our goal is to make a PG-13 movie. Try to make the funniest movie we possibly can . PG, PG-13 movie in there depending on how funny funny, the trade-off to funny.
Shawn Levy: One other thing, I would add that this film is rife with a lot of the double entendres and innuendo humor that is built into the franchise and is very much at work.
Steve Martin: You know in that whole rating thing that says language, L for Language, N for Nudity. This will have DJ, for Dick Jokes.
Question for Jean Reno, will you try to get rid of your French accent when your playing in an American movie? Or does it matter for you?
Jean Reno: I have my accent. If it’s a French accent, but I’m not trying to have a special French accent. I’m trying to be honest with the role as usual, for my companion, who I like very much, Steve.
Steve Martin: I love this guy. This is a major star. We got him. Nice guy too. It makes me sick.
Have the Americans in the cast been working on French accents?
Steve Martin: You know we’re going to drop that. No, I’m kidding. I’m working on mine. (with French accent) Don’t be ridiculous, that’s absurd. Kevin has done a French accent. Problem is that they were American movies.
Beyonce, will you have an accent?
Beyonce: No, I won’t a French have an accent.
Steve Martin: But she will be singing a song.
Shawn Levy: Several actually, two.
Steve Martin: Is that allowed in my contract?
Are you writing them for the movie?
Beyonce: Right, I’m co-writing and producing the songs for the movie. Some are for the soundtrack as well.
Steve, you’ve got three very lovely ladies up there. Being the screenwriter, did you write love scenes for yourself?
Steve Martin: Oh yes, I always put those in my screenplays. And he touched her breasts or boobies. You know, Inspector Clouseau seducing Beyonce, that’s in. Emily and I have a…
Emily Mortimer: A gymnastics scene…
Steve Martin: By the way, Kristen [Chenoweth] got a great review in the New York Times for Candide. She’s in our movie.
Kristin Chenoweth: Thank you.
Beyonce, do you feel you have big shoes to fill considering Queen Latifah’s success with Steve Martin?
Beyonce: Absolutely not, I’m so happy for Queen Latifah and I feel she’s helping open the doors for young, black female actresses. I’m just honored, like I said earlier, to be here. Another reason why I did the film was I knew I would be around all this talent. I’ve learned so much. This was a great experience for me.
Mr. Martin, did you see the Benini interpretation of Clouseau and was it at all an inspiration?
Steve Martin: I didn’t see Benini. Fortunately I grew up with the Pink Panther movies and laughing and laughing and laughing. The thought of making other people have those kind of twenty-year memories about a comedy or about a scene in a movie is, you know, what I king of do it for…and money.
Did you study them?
Steve Martin: I didn’t study them, no, but I knew them pretty well. They’d come up on TV and you see little things. You find yourself watching, that’s a good note, that’s a good beat, to remember the Clouseau character. I was thinking. They have different James Bond’s. The end. I was expecting a standing ovation for something like that.
How do you intend to update this for today’s audience and make it contemporary?
Steve Martin: Basically adding filth, no, I don’t know. I think the idea of Clouseau is timeless and classic. I don’t know, what is the update?
Shawn Levy: I think the update is in some part due, you know Clouseau is this absurdist, bumbling character, but he’s also at the mercy of today’s technology and the things that exist in the world today that weren’t around thirty, forty years ago. There’s a lot of new playthings for Clouseau to screw up. Beyond that I think the sense of humor is very much loyal to the broadly physical originals. It has, again largely due to Steve’s screenwriting, a level of wit and just kind of very clever, sharp observations about the way the world is now. So, unknowingly stumbling through that world, it just feels fresh.
Because it’s a madcap comedy, what are you guys doing to stay in shape?
Steve Martin: I’ve actually been doing, question the others too, a lot of yoga, walking and biking. You do need to kind of be in shape to do it.
Beyonce: I actually just got off tour. That’s a huge workout every day.
Kevin Kline: Ahhhhh….just the usual, you know…
Steve Martin: Nothing.
Kevin Kline: It’s high cal, high carbohydrate, high fat, I don’t want to give anything away. So I’ll stop now. No, I just do a lot of falling down and that’s the best exercise.
Steve Martin: So you wake up in the morning and you fall out bed.
Kevin Kline: I fall out of the shower. Fall into the press conference. Fall out of the movie. Hearing all these wonderful actors, directors, producers, moderators, journalists, wonderful people from all over the world. It just makes me want to live. Thank you. I’m very excited to be part of this film. I had a wonderful time shooting it. I look forward to the next movie.
Kevin, you and Steve strike me as birds of a feather. Have you maintained a friendship over the last decade or so?
Kevin Kline: Oh yes, we’re very close. We’ve managed to maintain a friendship by never working together. Putting our friendship to the ultimate test. Wouldn’t you say? We did work together on Grand Canyon. But that’s a more serious film. Although you were very funny, inappropriately so. That’s all water under the bridge. I guess we’ve been friends for years. Good, good, good friends, I know I have a friend in Steve. I at least return phone calls and remember his birthday. Steve doesn’t always do that.
Steve Martin: Keep going.
Kevin Kline: Nuff said.
What political office would you like to hold?
Steve Martin: I think I’d be a very good president, because of my comedy background. I think we could go over there, be kind of amusing, hearts would soften, make them laugh.
Beyonce: I’m not sure. Ask me that again in a couple years.
Kevin Kline: Minister of culture, minister of high culture…
Steve Martin: Because he’s always high.
Kevin Kline: Because I think culture in this country’s at an all time low. I would try to lift it up.
Beyonce, you’re playing a pop star. How is it to play something you are in real life?
Beyonce: Actually, I’m playing Xania and she’s a bit different from me. It’s exciting because I’m able to sing in it and I’m very comfortable doing that. Like I said, it’s great to work with other actors and comedians. Every time I do another film, I feel like I get more and more experience. I’m excited about that.
For Kristen and Emily, the female roles in this film are like Bond girls with a sense of humor. Is that what got the two of you interested?
Emily Mortimer: Yes, I love the part I play in this film. Far from being a sort of token girl. I feel like she’s definitely one of the most adorable characters I’ve had the opportunity to play. Whether or not I’ll be adorable remains to be seen, but she’s wonderful.
I would imagine after doing some tough, dramatic, sexual scenes in Young Adam, you must be excited to do something that’s a little bit more light?
Emily Mortimer: There are tough, dramatic, sexual scenes in this movie.
What about you Kristen?
Kristen Chenoweth: I guess what attracted me to this project has always been the men. This is my first feature film. It’s a great opportunity. My scenes are with these two guys.
Shawn and Steve, this is your second movie together. Who signed on first and brought in the other one?
Steve Martin: Well, the genesis of the movie is not that interesting. I actually ran into Shawn at a parking lot. I was doing some looping for Cheaper by the Dozen and he said, I hear you were offered Pink Panther. I said, I don’t know, it’s a tough thing. I wrote a few scenes just to see, but I don’t think I’m going to do it.
Shawn Levy: I actually remember standing in that parking lot and you pitched me right there.
Steve Martin: I said I wrote this. I said, do you think it’s funny? He said, yeah I think it’s funny. H e said, well are you interested in it? And it sort of escalated and here we are.
Shawn Levy: You know it’s been a treat for this. We’ve had a process over a bunch of months now, working on the screenplay together. Its got the benefit of having spent much of the last year together on Cheaper by the Dozen. So, hopefully he streak will continue.
What happened to Kato?
Steve Martin: I don’t know. He’s not in it. We kind of combined Kato into Jean Reno’s part. That’s really what we did.
Shawn Levy: Clouseau has a partner now named Ponton, played by Jean Reno. What we’ve done is, without giving too much away, we’ve taken some of the classic and most beloved aspects of the Kato and Clouseau relationship, i.e. spontaneous attacks. The spontaneous attacks are reinterpreted through the Ponton character.
Steve Martin: When I got the script, the Kato character was already out. There might have been a politically correct influence in the script.
Shawn Levy: It pre-dated our involvement.
Beyonce, what was your reaction when you were first approached about the Pink Panther? Was it a franchise you were familiar with and who was the first person you told?
Beyonce: I was honored. The first thing I wanted to do was read the script. I thought it was hilarious. I knew Steve Martin was playing Inspector Clouseau. I was just honored to work with him. I’m a huge fan and actually, Sean and I worked together maybe six years ago. I spoke with him and it seemed like everything was perfect. It was a perfect opportunity for me. My mother was the first person I told.
Were you familiar with the franchise growing up?
Beyonce: Actually, I was familiar but I’d never seen the original. I was more familiar with the cartoon.
What was the time you worked with Shawn?
Shawn Levy: This was back when both of us were closer to having started out. Five years ago, I was working in kids television producing and directing a show for Disney call The Famous Jett Jackson. I actually think this is before Goldmember or any of your films. It was Beyonce’s first acting role. I wrote and directed and produced the show. Beyonce was the guest star. We have that history together.
Kristen, how tough is it going to be to juggle this with your theater obligations?
Kristen Chenoweth: Well, I’ll shoot this during the day and do Wicked at night. I’m doing Wicked at the Gershwin theatre. You know, get lots of sleep. Get as much as I can.
Do you have your soccer player and will you use the Pink Panther theme music?
Shawn Levy: We are going to use the theme music. Both in its original form and in several, reinterpreted, rearranged forms. Do we have our soccer player? We’re not finalized there yet, but within a day or two we’ll be able to answer that question. I assume you’re referring to the soccer coach that gets murdered in the beginning of the film, and the investigation that triggers the film. The actor is British.
When do you expect the movie to come out?
Robert Simmonds: Mid-summer 2005.
Steve Martin: This movie is most like getting ready for a sporting event, like an athlete. I feel like I’m training, we’re building up. It’s almost like opening night at a show. We’re building up, we’re rehearsing, I can feel the energy building up. We’re starting to have sleepless nights. Which is a little different from an ordinary movie. There’s a real energy going into this movie, a real confidence and feeling of fun. I remember Frank Oz, he was the director of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and he came to us before we were shooting with Michael Caine. And said, it’s very important that these two characters look like they’re having fun. But it’s more important that it looks like Steve and Michael are having fun. I kind of feel that way about this movie. We are going to have fun making this movie. And we are laughing a lot.
When does your production start in New York?
Shawn Levy: Monday
Where are you shooting?
Steve Martin: Whoa, actually we might change because it’s supposed to rain. So we don’t know.
Shawn Levy: It’s not yet totally set.
Beyonce, can you describe your worst moment on the road?
Steve Martin: Work in the Pink Panther somewhere.
Beyonce: I have lots of crazy moments. It’ll take me a second to think of something. Probably, I'm real clumsy, falling down the stairs. My stiletto broke and I had to somehow play-off, you know, tiptoe off the stage. It was pretty embarrassing.
Beyonce, what do you think was challenging for this film and can you respond to the reports that you’re married?
Beyonce: I’m married? No, I’m not married. I think what attracted me to this role was how funny it was going to be. The challenging part is over. Now it’s time to have fun.