LOS ANGELES — Labor Day weekend used to belong to Jerry Lewis and his madcap 21-hour Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon.
Lewis hosted the marathon for Muscular Dystrophy from 1966 until his last show as host in 2010.
With his film return Max Rose opening in one theater this weekend (before expanding nationwide), Lewis, 90, is working Labor Day once again. But the legendary performer insists he doesn't miss the weekend telethon ritual for which he has become associated.
“I’m 90, what does that tell you?” Lewis asks during an interview for Max Rose. “You start slowing down. I haven’t slowed down at all, but that’s what you are supposed to do.”
Lewis and the Muscular Dystrophy Association parted ways mysteriously, and controversially, over the telethon — with Lewis' abrupt departure never fully explained. But Lewis clearly still takes pride in the event and the decade-spanning effort, which he says has brought in $2.6 billion dollars to help battle the disease.
“I don’t know of anyone in the world that has ever done anything that represented 2 billion dollars,” says Lewis.
Here’s what else Lewis is taking part in:
HE'S DIRECTING ANOTHER FILM
Lewis says he is working on a mystery project that he plans to write and direct. He gives no details except that it will be shot in France, where Lewis is a hailed as a genius, and that negotiations are underway.
“It’s a marvelous idea that we’ve got. And when I put it on paper it’s going to be terrific,” says Lewis, adding that it’s too personal to pass on to another director. “I wouldn’t give this to a stranger.”
He does confirm that he will not star in it. For those who wonder if Lewis might go for a current popular movie trend, it certainly will not be a superhero project.
“I won’t even go see those,” says Lewis, referring to the genre in unprintable verbiage.
HE'S GOING ON TOUR
Lewis will travel on a nightclub/stage act that runs about two hours and includes jokes, stories and rarely seen video clips from his vault. The schedule is far from Lewis' two-shows-a-night heyday.
The tour begins Sept. 30 in Las Vegas and runs in a few locations across the country, ending in a Turner Classic Movies Cruise in November.
Lewis relishes the opportunity of performing in front of a live audience.
“I love it, you walk on the stage and you are reborn,” he says. “The laughter is just wonderful.”
HE TAKES THE OCCASIONAL PAYCHECK MOVIE
Lewis took a small role in the DirectTV movie The Trust, as the father to a cop played by Nicolas Cage. The film was released in May to scant box office. Lewis has to be reminded he appeared in it.
“One day, two hours, done,” says Lewis in explanation for why he took the part. “Nothing important.”
Lewis says he receives up to 30 scripts a month at his Las Vegas office and reads them. His part in Max Rose came after director Daniel Noah sent an unsolicited script to Lewis’ office.
HE VOWS TO LEAVE PAST PROJECTS ALONE
There had been discussions of Lewis' The Nutty Professor heading to Broadway in musical form. Under Lewis’ direction, the musical version premiered at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in 2012, and Lewis said the musical had a “bright future” in 2014.
But during his latest interview, Lewis said the classic 1963 comedy, redone by Eddie Murphy in 1996 (with a Murphy sequel in 2000), should be left alone.
“It’s too important to leave it just like it is and not take advantage of it,” says Lewis. “You don’t steal from yourself, at least you try not to. But it’s a constant problem, because it was perfect. You want to see how you can revamp it to make it work again. But that doesn’t work. Kiss it goodbye and get on with the new stuff.”