MEL BROOKS: 'I'M FINALLY GETTING RECOGNISED AS A GOOD DIRECTOR'
Mel Brooks, whose long career in comedy includes writing and directing hilarious films like "The Producers" and "Young Frankenstein," will receive the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award on June 6.
And if you ask him, it's about time.
"They're finally recognising that I'm a pretty good director," the 86-year-old former standup comedian said in a wide-ranging interview at his Culver City offices near Los Angeles. "They say, 'Comedy force, good writer, funny actor. Nobody ever, in the press or anywhere, said I was a good director."
Brooks' career is also being recognized on May 20, when PBS will premiere "Mel Brooks: Make a Noise," a documentary that traces his life from his childhood in Brooklyn to Broadway, where a musical adaption of his film "The Producers" won 12 Tony Awards.
"Quiet on the set!," Brooks bellows at one point in the interview with Reuters. Leaping to his feet, his hands cupped in front of his face as if yelling into a megaphone, he shouts: "That's what I do best."
Brooks spends his time these days working with a single assistant in a quiet, three-room suite at the Culver Studios, a once flourishing 95-year-old studio where scenes from "Gone with the Wind" and "Citizen Kane" were shot.
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Behind his desk sit three Emmys and assorted other statuettes, a monument to a six-decade career that began as a drummer and stand-up comedian in the Borscht Belt - a resort region in upstate New York frequented by Jewish vacationers and Yiddish entertainers - before he became a writer for his friend Sid Caesar's 1950s groundbreaking comedy variety show "Your Show of Shows."
His career includes Emmys, Tonys and an Academy Award. But the only people who ever thought he was a good director, he says, were Oscar-winning director Billy Wilder, who also did comedy, and Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense and psychological thrillers.
Hitchcock helped him write his 1977 film "High Anxiety," a parody of suspense films that he dedicated to the legendary director. Hitchcock was so pleased that he sent Brooks a case of six magnums of 1961 Chateau Haut-Brion wine, Brooks said.
"He loved "Blazing Saddles," and said I should have been nominated for the Academy Award," said Brooks. "The back lighting, the performances. He said it was great directing. And I was never even nominated."