CANNES May 23 Veteran comedian-actor Jerry
Lewis plays a dramatic role in his first movie in 18 years, "Max
Rose", which is premiering at the Cannes film festival, but
showed on Thursday he had lost none of his talent for playing
Lewis, 87, laughed his way through a news conference at the
world's top cinema showcase with non-stop one-liners about how
much he was paid for "Max Rose", his career's ups and downs and
his former partner Dean Martin, who died in 1995.
"When I arrived here and he wasn't here, I knew something
was wrong," he quipped when asked about Martin, with whom he
rose to fame in the 1940s and 1950s, first in television and
The duo, in which singer Martin played the straight guy to
Lewis' slapstick comedy, split up acrimoniously in 1956 and both
men went on to solo careers.
In "Max Rose", written and directed by American filmmaker
Daniel Noah, Lewis plays an ageing jazz pianist who learns that
his wife of 65 years may have been unfaithful to him, making him
wonder if their life together was built on a lie.
It is Lewis' first film role since 1995's "Funny Bones" and
one he said could not resist because it was the best script he
had read in 40 years. The film is holding its premiere at Cannes
where it has a screening but is not competing.
"The wonderful thing about this script is that it is about
elderly people who have been thrown away," said Lewis, dressed
in a bright red V-necked sweater and yellow shirt.
"It is a very different thing to do for the crazy clown that
has been doing one thing for 60 years .. but it is an incredible
movie that is going to give a lot of people a lot of pleasure,
and that's the idea and I will meet you all at the bank."
Dodging any mention of retirement, Lewis said he looked back
on his work with pride, citing his 1963 film "The Nutty
Professor" and his performance in Martin Scorsese's 1983 film
"The King of Comedy".
But he said there was one film which he regretted and would
never see the light of day - the 1972 film "The Day The Clown
Cried" which he both directed and featured as a circus clown
imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. It was shot in Sweden.
"It was all bad and it was bad because I lost the magic,"
said Lewis. "You will never see it, no-one will ever see it,
because I am embarrassed at the poor work."
Lewis once stirred controversy by commenting that he did not
find female comedians funny and he stood by this at Cannes
despite coming under attack for this view over the years.
"I cannot sit and watch a lady diminish her qualities to the
lowest common denominator," he said. "My favourite female
comedians? Cary Grant and Burt Reynolds."
(Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)