Behind-The-Scenes Stories From Mel Brooks Movies

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Vote up the production stories that make you enjoy Mel Brooks's movies even more.

Mel Brooks, known for being a funnyman in front of and behind the camera, has created some of the most iconic comedies in cinema history. From the making of Blazing Saddles to Spaceballs, Brooks has been known to take daring approaches when creating his impressive filmography.

It’s no surprise this Hollywood pioneer is also a member of its most exclusive society. Joining the ranks of Audrey Hepburn and Whoopi Goldberg, Brooks is one of 16 members in the exclusive EGOT club - he has received an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Funny Mel Brooks stories from behind the scenes of his most incredible movies are as numerous as the awards on his mantelpiece.

  • 1
    5,031 VOTES

    ‘Young Frankenstein’ Used The Actual Laboratory Props From The 1931 Film ‘Frankenstein’

    If you’re making a spoof of a Frankenstein movie, why not literally hire some of the people who worked on the original? When filming Young Frankenstein, Brooks tapped Ken Strickfaden, who had worked on the lab sets for the 1931 Frankenstein film by James Whale.

    When Brooks visited Strickfaden, he was delighted to find that the designer had stored all of the equipment from the previous set right in his garage. Strickfaden gladly made a deal to rent out the equipment to Brooks and got the screen credit he was cheated out of in the original Frankenstein films.

    5,031 votes
  • 2
    5,231 VOTES

    Brooks Screened His Alfred Hitchcock Parody ‘High Anxiety’ For Hitchcock Himself, And The Director Left Without Saying A Word

    Though best known for his irreverent satire, Mel Brooks also had a very respectful approach when asking for the blessing of the directors of movies he parodied. Most famous is his interaction with The Birds director Alfred Hitchcock, a master of suspense both on-screen and in reality. Brooks personally sat next to Hitchcock - one of his directing idols - at a premiere screening for his parody of Hitchcock films, High Anxiety. In the movie, Brooks portrayed the head of the “Psychoneurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous.”

    Brooks recalls watching the film next to Hitchcock in his autobiography, All About Me

    I had my own high anxiety awaiting his reaction. He didn't laugh. He just sat and he watched. He only broke up once. When the birds let go and plastered me with their droppings, then I could see his shoulders shaking. When the film was over, he got up and walked out. He didn't say he liked the picture. He didn't say he hated the picture. He didn't say anything. He just left.

    I was devastated. And really worried.

    After the screening, Hitchcock walked out without a word. Brooks feared his parody was now a “dead man walking,” and that he had somehow upset his directorial hero. Days later, Hitchcock sent Brooks wine and a note that read, “A small token of my pleasure, have no anxiety about this.” This thumbs up makes it obvious why the film is dedicated to Hitchcock.

    5,231 votes
  • 3
    4,055 VOTES

    Brooks Paid Orson Welles $25,000 To Narrate ‘History of the World, Part 1’ - And He Knocked It Out In Half A Morning

    Nothing stings more than overpaying. This is a feeling Mel Brooks knows all too well. In 2015, Brooks admitted he had done just that when hiring Orson Welles to narrate History of the World, Part I.

    “He was supposed to do five days of work, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., narrating scenes,” Brooks explained, but after Welles began his morning voice test, they were on a roll. “He started to test his voice out about 10 [minutes] to 9 a.m. By 11:30 a.m., 12 o’clock, he had done all the narration.” Bewildered, Brooks acknowledged, “It was all perfect.”

    4,055 votes
  • 4
    3,148 VOTES

    Brooks Broke Off His Original Deal For ‘Young Frankenstein’ Because The Studio Refused To Shoot In Black And White

    Negotiations with big studios can feel like a game of creative tug-of-war. This is a dance Mel Brooks knows very well. When shopping Young Frankenstein around, he faced initial pushback from Columbia when he insisted on shooting the film in black and white to match the styles of the Hollywood horror classics he was emulating.

    When Columbia hated the idea, he turned to 20th Century Fox, who initially agreed to shoot it on color stock so they could, they claimed, "release it in color in Peru." Brooks refused this ruse and ultimately shot his film in black and white.

    3,148 votes
  • 5
    4,210 VOTES

    At The End Of ‘Blazing Saddles’ When Everyone’s Running Out Of The Warner Bros. Lot, The Confused Man Watching Them Was An Actual Bystander

    It’s a pretty common dream to end up in a Hollywood film - but what about accidentally? During the end of Blazing Saddles, the Sheriff and the Waco Kid are chased through the Warner Bros. studio backlot. As they run past the front gate of Warner Bros., they pass an innocent bystander who gawks at them, unsure what was happening. It turns out, that was an actual random bystander who happened to be walking by the Warner lot and walked into the shot.

    In typical Mel Brooks fashion, he embraced the genuine emotions the man showed, and instead of doing another take, he had the man sign a waiver. You really don’t know when you’ll get your big break.

    4,210 votes
  • 6
    4,114 VOTES

    George Lucas Told Brooks He Wouldn’t Sue Him Over ‘Spaceballs’ On One Condition: No Toys

    Spaceballs, the 1987 spoof of the original Star Wars trilogy, was known for toeing the line between emulation and parody. Mel Brooks confessed to Entertainment Weekly that he was afraid to get sued by Lucas. After all, the Star Wars franchise was and remains a financial juggernaut within the industry. When Brooks reached out to Lucas, Lucas was fine with the Spaceballs film being produced, with one caveat: no merchandise.

    Brooks, of course, complied, but it was ironic since one of the most iconic Spaceballs characters, Yogurt, was famously over-enthusiastic about merchandising. Though it’s a shame no toys were officially produced, every once in a while, an eagle-eyed fan may be able to spot an unofficial figurine on Etsy.

    4,114 votes