The Tribeca Film Festival has tapped a restored version of Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy as its closing night film.
The festival, now in its 12th year, sometimes opts for a big studio tentpole in the slot as it did last year with The Avengers. But festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal said the film, which will screen April 27 at Tribeca BMCC PAC, “seems more relevant today than it was 30 years ago,” when it released.
The King of Comedy, which was written by Paul D. Zimmerman, stars festival co-founder Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Diahnne Abbott and Sandra Bernhard. Arnon Milchan produced the film, which is recognized for its groundbreaking foresight into reality TV culture and the lack of distinction between renown and notoriety.
The Film Foundation, Regency Enterprises and 20th Century Fox joined forced to spearhead the restoration. The film is being restored digitally in 4K from the original camera negatives at Sony Colorworks. John Polito at Audio Mechanics is digitally restoring the soundtrack.
“Twelve years ago when we announced the first festival, it was Marty’s idea for us to feature restored and rediscovered films,” Rosenthal said. “The King of Comedy was so ahead of its time. … We are so grateful to Jim Gianopulos and Regency for helping to restore such an iconic film and ensuring it remains a part of our cultural heritage.”
The film, which shines a light on the darker side of comedy, kicks off when talk show host Jerry Langford (Lewis) is kidnapped by stand-up comedian Rupert Pupkin (De Niro) and his sidekick (Bernhard). Langford is forced to give Pupkin a shot at the big time by allowing the struggling comic to perform his routine on Langford’s show.
“The fact that it’s been restored (after so many years) is even all the better, and I can't wait to see it on our closing night,” said De Niro.
Added Scorsese: “I’ve always been partial to comedians -- the irreverence, the absurdity, the hostility, all the feelings under the surface -- and to the old world of late-night variety shows hosted by Steve Allen and Jack Paar and, of course, Johnny Carson, to the familiarity and the camaraderie between the guests. You had the feeling that they were there with you, in your living room. Robert De Niro and I were both drawn to Paul Zimmerman’s script for The King of Comedy, which really captured the show business atmosphere and the desperate attachments that some of the people on the other side of the screen could form, the ones that in certain cases turned dangerous.
“Making the picture was quite an experience. We had Sandra Bernhard in her debut. We had New York in summer. We had the beautiful Diahnne Abbott. We had all those wonderful guest stars like Tony Randall and Victor Borge and Ed Herlihy and Dr. Joyce Brothers, and the people who were really in the business, like Freddy De Cordova and Ed Scherick. We had my mother and my father and my daughter Cathy. We even had the Clash in a couple of shots in the role of ‘street trash.’ And, we had a living legend, the great Jerry Lewis.”
The festival will take place from April 17-28.
Email: Tatiana.Siegel@THR.com, Twitter: @TatianaSiegel27