In honor of this week’s 50th Anniversary Special Edition Blu-ray release of Jerry Lewis’ The Nutty Professor (read our review here), Warner Brothers hosted a press conference with the man himself at the world famous Friars Club in the middle of Manhattan. Originally intended to be moderated by Brett Ratner, scheduling conflicts dictated that none other than Larry King take his place. Considerably more spry and quick witted than probably any other man his age, a smiling Lewis took his seat in front of the beaming lights as a barrage of flashbulbs erupted, King taking his place seated to the comedy icon’s side.
With the initial photo op out of the way, Lewis spoke quite candidly to the crowd of reporters and fielded all manner of questions with good humor. As the conversation began, Lewis and King gave an overview of the Jekyll & Hyde aspect of The Nutty Professor, with Lewis noting that while most folks are more than happy to show their Jekyll, very few ever want anyone to see their Hyde. He drew comparisons to the characters of Professor Kelp and Buddy Love as he played them in the film and noted that his inspiration for the film came to him when he was in a hotel room one night where a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s book had been left, completely at random. He also discussed the scripting process, sharing that although he wrote the film with seven varying scripts, he wound up shooting his first version.
Understandably proud of the picture, Lewis feels that The Nutty Professor is a perfect film and he’s overjoyed with the way that Warner Brothers has treated the movie with this new deluxe Blu-ray release. Lewis also talked about the budget for the film, noting that he put up the money for it at just over 4 million, smiling when then revealing that he had made his investment back a hundred times over. Lewis also talked up the Broadway version of The Nutty Professor soon to be debuting in New York City. Lewis promises that the live theater version will be very true to the spirit of the original film and that it will be set in the sixties just like the film that inspired it.
As the floor opened up to questions of a more general nature, Lewis talks about some of the extra features included in the deluxe package. The long out of print Phony Phone Calls CD, he said, was compiled from recordings he made while he had nothing to do in between takes on various film projects he was involved with. These were all done on the fly and with very little planning but he’s quite happy with how they turned out. Others asked about his infamous appearance on the Carol Burnett show, and he described the comedienne as great to work with, noting how much he enjoyed kissing her “I coulda kissed her all day long!” Always ready with a joke or a quip, he then told the crowd that he talked Nutty Professor leading lady Stella Stevens into letting him kiss her all day long and then letting him do everything else. “I’m joking, but she was a beautiful woman.” He also shared his thoughts on the state of comedy today, noting that modern comedians are more interested in engaging in cerebral combat with their audience than in giving them pleasure and stating that if Charlie Chaplin and W.C. Fields were still around today, the state of modern comedy would be very different indeed – and he’s probably right.
From there, the subject changed to which of his films he feels is the most underrated, to which he replied My Friend Irma, which was the first of his many collaborations with the late Dean Martin. Lewis also talked about the Nutty Professor remake starring Eddie Murphy and its sequel. While he appreciated the film, what he liked most about it was that “it filled up my bank account.” Lewis openly admitted he doesn't understand why Murphy would want to make a third film in the series, he's happy if Eddie does it because “it'll fill up my bank account again.” As the press conference finished up, comedienne/actress Carrie Keagan came out with Terre Hamlisch, widow of the late Marvin Hamlisch, a close personal friend of Lewis (they worked together on the musical version of The Nutty Professor before Hamlisch’s passing in 2012). Congratulatory hugs were shared, a smile on the face of everyone in attendance.
Lewis left the room and appeared in the lounge area in the Milton Berle room on the second floor of the iconic building a half an hour later where he was introduced by Richard Belzer. Lewis spoke briefly to the packed room (Edward Norton, Jeffrey Ross and Russell Simmons were all in attendance) after a clip from the new Blu-ray release played before retiring to the dining room for a more intimate, private finish to a rare evening spent in the presence of a veritable living legend.