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Carl Reiner Gives Mel Brooks His Honorary AFI Doctorate

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood June 15, 2012 at 9:29PM

At the AFI Commencement this week, Carl Reiner presented his old chum Mel Brooks with an honorary doctorate, and much hilarity ensued (video link). (The 2000 Year Old Man made an appearance.)
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Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner
Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner

At the AFI Commencement this week, Carl Reiner presented his old chum Mel Brooks with an honorary doctorate, and much hilarity ensued (video link). (The 2000 Year Old Man made an appearance.)

Brooks recalled his late wife Anne Bancroft enrolling in the AFI directing program for women. And said he could have done a good job with "The Elephant Man," which Brooks produced. Instead he hired fellow AFI honoree David Lynch, after seeing "Eraserhead," "because he figured if put his name on it, the audience would think it was a comedy.

Brooks met Lynch at his fave hangout Bob's Big Boy. "He had a white shirt buttoned at the top with no tie," Brooks recalled. "He looked like Charles Lindbergh, he was pretty weird. I didn't know if he was really sane or not. He seemed earnest and I knew he was emotionally attached to the script, the subject matter and the story."

Aside from writing and directing, Brooks produced quite a few good films, including Bancroft's film "Fatso," "Frances," starring Jessica Lange, "84 Charing Cross Road," starring Bancroft, David Cronenberg's "The Fly," starring Jeff Goldblum, and Richard Benjamin's "My Favorite Year" starring Peter O'Toole.

"Good things come out of AFI," he said. "That made me get off my ass, I never do this." To writers he said, "If you don't laugh, don't write it."


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.