Hollywood legend Mel Brooks has too many credits to name, but here goes. He directed 1968's "The Producers" and was the producer of the 2005 remake. He was creator of the 1965 series "Get Smart" and returned to TV in a recurring part on "Mad About You." His films are classics: "Blazing Saddles," "High Anxiety," "The Twelve Chairs," "To Be Or Not To Be," "Young Frankenstein," "Spaceballs," "History of the World: Part I" and "Robin Hood: Men In Tights." With the Mel Brooks DVD boxed set coming to stores this week, he spoke to NEWSWEEK's Ramin Setoodeh. Excerpts: NEWSWEEK: Hi Mel. Where are you today?
Mel Brooks: You're talking to me from sunny Southern California. This is where my office is, in Culver City. This is where I make my movies, develop my Broadway shows. This is good territory—just a few blocks away from the old MGM.
What are you working on now?
I'm working on a Broadway show. It's called "Young Frankenstein." I'm writing the songs for it and a new sparkling book based on the movie. Did you expect "The Producers" to become a huge hit?
Getting 12 Tony's—the most ever. Still running today, geez, no. I have your new box set sitting right here. Why does "Blazing Saddles" still resonate today?
It's politically incorrect—and it's so refreshing. You could never have those scenes today, where you beat the s--- out of an old lady. There's a kind of artistic freedom that we yearn for that we don't get today. We get dirty stuff, sexy stuff, but we don't get racial stuff ever. Yes. But we have "Crash."
You can't laugh at it, but you can laugh at the fact that they gave it the Academy Award. You know, the Academy Awards were so crazy they should've called it the Independent Film Festival. It lost all the glitz and glamour. That politically correct s--- was going on again—let's do the right thing, these are important movies, good movies. There's no flare, no sweep, no Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I was bored.
It was absolutely dull. They should ask Billy Crystal to come back. He was funny and he had production numbers at the beginning. Are you doing a "Get Smart" movie?
Leave it alone! It's a perfectly good series. We don't need the movie. "Bewitched," wasn't that terrible? Why not do a comedy about finding Osama bin Laden? Is he here? Is he there? Let's have fun. Let's do a little White House scene with Bush and Condoleezza Rice and Cheney going, "Why the f--- did we go there?" What else should we talk about?
Where did you grow up? Fresno, California.
I know where that is. Now you're interviewing me!
That's OK. It's not cheating. I'm an observer, a writer—I observe humanity and get the best of them and put them in my movies. Can you write about my son's book? It's called the "Zombie Survival Guide." If you run into a zombie, you need this dense manual that has to deal with zombies. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree—but zombies? The apple fell down and rolled all the way to Cincinnati. Have you ever needed to fight off zombies?
A lot of people I work for in the studios were zombies, they just didn't know it.