Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Relativity Faces Bankruptcy, Spelling More Disaster for 'Jane Got a Gun' Relativity Faces Bankruptcy, Spelling More Disaster for 'Jane Got a Gun' 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Broad Green Dates 'Knight of Cups' and Two More Releases Broad Green Dates 'Knight of Cups' and Two More Releases Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal Is 'The Revenant' the Most Hellish Shoot of All Time? Is 'The Revenant' the Most Hellish Shoot of All Time? Gabriel García Márquez Documentary Coming Soon (Trailer) Gabriel García Márquez Documentary Coming Soon (Trailer) Why I Can't Wait to See 'Crimson Peak,' Guillermo del Toro's Sumptuous Period Thriller (VIDEO) Why I Can't Wait to See 'Crimson Peak,' Guillermo del Toro's Sumptuous Period Thriller (VIDEO) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991 Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991

Ribald Mel Brooks AFI Tribute, from Scorsese and Lynch to De Niro and Silverman: 'You're an Enigma, You are Singular, You are Ridiculous' (TRAILERS)

Photo of Ryan Lattanzio By Ryan Lattanzio | TOH! June 7, 2013 at 2:53PM

When asked by AFI if he could be the honoree of the 41st Life Achievement Award, Mel Brooks responded, "Of course! What took you so long?" It's a good question. It's clear from last night's event at the Dolby Theater -- a procession of food, drink, roasts and tributes -- that Hollywood peers just adore the 86 year-old director, screenwriter, composer, you-name-it. He's a renaissance man and an immortal legend and no one disputed that.
2
Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks

When asked by AFI if he could be the honoree of the 41st Life Achievement Award, Mel Brooks responded, "Of course! What took you so long?" It's a good question. It's clear from last night's event at the Dolby Theater -- a procession of food, drink, roasts and tributes -- that Hollywood peers just adore the 86 year-old director, screenwriter, composer, you-name-it. He's a renaissance man and an immortal legend and no one disputed that.

At the end of the night Brooks took to the stage to accept his AFI Life Achievement Award. The speech was classic Mel, brief and dryly hilarious and in the middle of it he paused to blow his nose. Pulling out a piece of paper he said sarcastically, "I don't want to go awry, I don't want to make mistakes, this is nearly an important occasion."

Then he read us his notes: "Don't forget to thank AFI, friends, family and colleagues for coming. Try to be sincere. In all sincerity I'd like to thank AFI, my friends and family for coming and wearing tuxedo. Don't forget the splendor of the event, beautiful table settings, lovely, uh, flowers. Don't mention the pedestrian food and incredibly cheap wine. Everything looks so beautiful tonight, they've gone to so much trouble. Everything looks great, it's like the movies -- it's full of shit."

He went on to say, in what he called a little "bullshit" sentimentality, "The movies saved my life, they rescued my soul no matter what." Brooks is a class act but there were no fake niceties in his speech. Why would we want it any other way?

Introducing Brooks as the evening began were AFI president Bob Gazzale and Brooks' old partner-in-crime Carl Reiner, with whom he appeared in skits on Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows." Producer Stuart Cornfeld reminded us that Brooks was the first man to "put the Third Reich to comic song" in "The Producers," the long-lived 1968 musical movie. Billy Crystal recalled Brooks approaching him to play crackpot producer Max Bialystock in the Broadway version. "Why would I want to be the eighth guy to play Max Bialystock?" Crystal responded. "You won't," he remembers Brooks saying, "you'll be the 12th!"

In a taped interview, Whoopi Goldberg said that Brooks "has no sense of a line in the sand," meaning that he has always been fearless when it comes to crossing boundaries of the un-PC and the profane in his comedy. At mezzanine table, friends and I debated what we thought was our favorite Mel Brooks movie. Many of us all said "Blazing Saddles," which giddily defiled the American western more than any other film to date, but as montages and Mel movie moments came onscreen, we kept changing our minds.

Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks

There was no shortage of Jewish jabs -- natch, shameless comedienne Sarah Silverman, describing him as "singular, an enigma, and ridiculous," cracked a few. So did Cloris Leachman who says she picked up some Yiddish from Mel, particularly the word "shtup," which was met with rousing laughter. Leachmen will always be remembered for playing Frau Blucher in "Young Frankenstein" in 1974 and three years later appeared in the Hitchcock spoof "High Anxiety." 

Another little chestnut Mel shared with us in a video interview: when he screened that film for Hitch, who apparently said nothing and didn't laugh, Mel was nervous. But a few days later he received a case of champagne from the master of suspense with a note that said "Have no anxiety about 'High Anxiety' -- it's a wonderful film. Love, Hitch." David Lynch, too, had wonderful things to say about Mel, who championed "Eraserhead" when looking for a director for "The Elephant Man" (1980). Martin Scorsese spoke about Brooks' "extremely disciplined mastery of film" and Brooks returned the compliment, saying: "No one so short has ever been so talented in film."

Among other attendees -- who offered more of a ribald ribbing than typical awards show-tailored adulation -- were Robert De Niro ("Who do I have to fuck to get into a Mel Brooks movie?"), Jimmy Kimmel, Amy Poehler, Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman and Larry David, who said "there are very few highs in the world that compare to a Mel high."

You can watch a telecast of the gala June 15th, 8pm PST, on TNT. Don't miss it, you'll laugh your head off.



E-Mail Updates








Thompson on Hollywood

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.