Continuing Wednesday's conversation with Mel Brooks, the legendary funnyman talks with Moviefone about whether he should get 'The Fly' back in theaters for its anniversary and reveals the surprisingly epic-sounding idea for a dream project that he still hopes to film.
With 'The Elephant Man' and 'The Fly' and even comedies like 'Dracula: Dead and Loving It' or 'Spaceballs,' you like to work with horror and science fiction.
I like horror and I like sci-fi and I raised a son, Max Brooks, who wrote the 'Zombie Survival Guide' and now 'World War Z' and they're making a movie of it with Brad Pitt.
I worked with the late Leslie Nielsen, when we did 'Dracula.' I did the show with Dick Cavett recently, and somebody in the audience said, "Tell us what you really think of Leslie Nielsen." I said, "He was truly, richly funny and inventive and witty and you'd never take him for a Canadian." I'm sure we got a few letters from Canada.
What were your impressions when Max handed you his zombie fiction?
I said to my wife, "Everyone's going to think because he wrote 'Saturday Night Live' for a couple of years, that this is tongue in cheek. I know that it's not." He believes that you gotta protect yourself from zombies. You gotta be diligent and the only way to stop 'em is to chop their heads off and shoot 'em in the brain. It sold over a million copies when they moved it out of humor to horror in the bookstores; the right people got a hold of it, and they understood him.
It seems like remakes have become a really big trend in Hollywood right now. When audiences and critics talk about the greatest remakes of all time, 'The Fly' is usually in the top three. What do you think is the key to handling a remake correctly?
I don't want to brag, but I believe we did a much better version than the original Fox movie. There's gotta be a deep respect for the concept, at least of the movie you're doing a remake of. 'The Fly' is a sensational idea and we had hindsight, plus science had moved forward for 30 years since the original one. So we took advantage of all that and I think our concept of metamorphosis was really the genius that made 'The Fly' so successful in terms of its art and its entertainment.
When Anne and I were doing 'To Be or Not To Be,' we treated the Lubitsch film with utmost respect, but we had history on our side. We could add things he didn't know about Hitler. And we did a pretty good movie. I could tell you that our 'Fly' was better than the first 'Fly,' but I'd never have the nerve to say that our 'To Be or Not To Be' was better than the Lubitsch one. That would be foolish 'cause his was superb.
[Anne] was incredible in 'To Be or Not To Be,' she knew all those Polish words. We sang 'Sweet Georgia Brown' in Polish. We had to translate it as close as we could to what the Polish lyrics would be and she knew every single word in Polish. She knew how to memorize it and I didn't, I was just kind of singing along. I always thought she was one of the best.
What voices in comedy are you most interested in right now?
I don't know, some comedy works and some doesn't. It's very hard. Judd Apatow is pretty good, both as a producer and as a director. He's got a pretty sharp sense of humor and there's some things that were outstandingly funny in the last few years; I thought 'The Hangover' was. The follow-up... I wasn't thrilled. But the first one was really funny. I didn't do that, I didn't write it and I didn't direct it and look how good it is. [Laughs] They got a lot raunchier since I made them -- a lot raunchier.
I'll accept bad taste in a minute, as long as there's some great comedy minds and performances. But if there isn't, it's even worse to have to suffer bad dirty jokes. Not that I'm clean, I'm pretty awful too, but at least I salvage it 'cause the comedy's good.
What goals do you still have with Brooksfilms? What other stories do you want to tell?
I have several; Spielberg did his, but I never told my World War II story. I was a soldier in WWII. The last couple of months of the war I was actually in combat. There's an army story in me, and I think there's a WWII Brooksfilm somewhere.
Sometime next summer or fall or Christmas, I'll put together a 'A History of Mel Brooks: Part One.' There's a wonderful company called the Shout Factory, who did the complete version of 'the 2000 Year-old Man,' and they said, "So much stuff you've done is pieces of the Carson show, let's do a salute to your career." One of them will be the HBO hour with me and Dick Cavett; funnily enough I'm clean as a whistle, the dirty one is Dick Cavett.
I segwayed into Broadway ten years ago and now I might do 'Blazing Saddles' 'cause it lends itself to being a Broadway Musical. It's got songs in it already and it's wacky and it's very entertaining.
Should I ask Fox to reissue 'The Fly'?
Yes, you should.
We don't want to remake 'The Fly.' This will be the best one we'll get. I should say to Fox: "This doesn't belong on a DVD. This belongs on a big screen. Don't make it in 3D. If that's what you're gonna do, forget about the release 'cause it's not a 3D film." 3D connotes something a little cheap. It's just, 'Journey To the Center of the Earth,' you know?
It's like a William Castle gimmick.
Yeah, I wouldn't want them to do 3D. 'Avatar,' OK, it's not bad. But you could play 'The Fly' for a week in almost every city in the world and make some money. Just say "Next Friday: 'The Fly.'" Boom! It's gonna be filled. I'm certainly going to go. Jim Gianopulos is running that company, he knows good stuff. I'm gonna call him and say, "Look, I was talking to Eric and Eric suggested that we'd make a lot of money if we'd just reissue 'The Fly' on the big screen."
Sure, I'll take the charge on this.
Then we can make a special anniversary DVD of it, but we gotta kick it off on the big screen. If you've never seen it on the big screen, it's the best horror film ever made. I'm bullsh-ting, but it might be. All of Canada will see it. And I'll tell them Jeff Goldblum is Canadian, they don't have to know. I really appreciate you caring that much about it 'cause you know, it's one of the greatest experiences of my life. And I like Moviefone, it's my kind of stuff.
It was like when I was doing 'Blazing Saddles' and I had hired Gig Young to play the Waco Kid. I hired Young because I knew he was a recovering alcoholic just like the character in the movie -- which you never should do. Get an actor, the real stuff is dangerous. So I got Young and he was upside down in the jailhouse in the opening scene and he started burbling and acting a little dizzy and crazy. I said to my assistant director, "Gee, this guy is incredible. Look, he knows how to do an alcoholic." And then he started throwing up and crying and I said, "That's enough for you." They carried him away and put him in an ambulance to the hospital and I was stuck.
I called Gene Wilder who was my best friend and knew everything that I was doing. He was about to do a part in 'The Little Prince,' and I said, "What am I going to do?" I started crying and he said, "I'll fly out." And he did, and that's called a bounce. A great, lucky bounce. I tried to get Richard Pryor and Fox -- no, that was Warner Brothers -- they said, "No, no, he's a drug addict." This was before he became a big star. Then I met Cleavon Little -- and there was a great bounce. He was fantastic. He was funny and handsome and knew what was going on. His awareness was so sharp and so good.
[On 'History of the World, Part 1'] Richard was doing meth or something -- he burned himself up -- and I didn't know what to do, and Madeline Kahn said, "I know a guy in New York who is so talented. Call him, his name is Gregory Hines and he's never done movies." So I called him, he flew out and I met him and woop! There's another great bounce. You take a bad bounce and he turns into the perfect guy. So all of these are great bounces.
Gallery | The History of BrooksFilms
The Dom DeLuise-starring comedy was written and directed by Mel's wife, Anne Bancroft.
'The Elephant Man' (1980)
Mel Brooks served as an uncredited executive producer.
'History of the World: Part 1' (1981)
In addition to producing, Brooks wrote, directed and starred in this historical spoof.
'My Favorite Year' (1982)
Brooks was an uncredited executive producer of this film, inspired by his time writing for Sid Caesar.
Brooks was an uncredited producer on the Hollywood biopic.
'To Be or Not to Be' (1983)
Brooks produced and co-starred alongside his wife in this remake of the WWII comedy.
'The Doctor and the Devils' (1985)
Mel finally allowed his producing credit to be listed on this Victorian-set thriller about grave-robbers.
'The Fly' (1986)
But kept his producer credit unlisted again on the sci-fi horror classic.
Mel was listed as executive producer on this teen-starring, futuristic adventure movie.
'84 Charing Cross Road' (1987)
Brooks served as executive producer on his wife's British period drama.
In addition to writing, directing and producing, fans remember Brooks as Yogurt, the king of intergalactic merchandizing.
'The Fly II' (1989)
Brooks was uncredited producer yet again for this sequel to the Jeff Goldblum-starring hit.
'Life Stinks' (1991)
If you couldn't tell from the poster, Mel wrote, produced, directed and starred in this skid-row comedy.
'The Vagrant' (1992)
Mel served as executive producer on this little-seen black comedy starring Bill Paxton.
'Robin Hood: Men In Tights' (1993)
Brooks then returned to his Renaissance man status (writer/director/producer/actor) on the adventure parody.
'Dracula: Dead and Loving It' (1995)
This send-up of classic horror, is Brooks' last film to date, to feature him as writer, director, producer, actor.
'The Producers' (2005)
Brooksfilm's most recent picture touted writing and producing credits from the company's namesake.
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