Sunday, August 21, 2016

Mel Brooks: In This Politically Correct Environment I Wouldn't Have Been Able to Make "Blazing Saddles"

From a Daily Beast interview:
What did Warner Bros. executives think when they first saw Blazing Saddles?
Mel Brooks: They wanted to bury me and the film. The head of distribution told the owners not to release the picture but they only did because it was already booked in theaters and they didn’t have a picture they could replace it with. Only John Calley, an extremely filmmaker-friendly executive at the studio, championed it. The rest of the executives wouldn’t acknowledge me on the lot even when Blazing Saddles became a huge money maker.”
Why did they hate the film so much?
I actually got notes from the studio head in vivid detail who said, “Lose the fart scene, cut out any racial and ethnic jokes, edit scenes where a horse and an old lady get punched,” and my favorite note: “Can you reshoot Black Bart with a white actor?” If I had made their changes the film would have been just 14 minutes long! I stupidly threw all their notes in the trash. Imagine the book I could have written on them today. Then I had a screening on the lot for anyone who worked there, so the executives couldn’t think I was faking the results. The screening proved everything the big shots hated was funny beyond belief, and yet the big shots didn’t believe the comic tastes of their own employees. I only got my first royalty check recently, which meant it took all these years to show a profit. Hopefully my next check will be in three figures!
And Richard Pryor, of course, was your first choice for Black Bart.
The studio didn’t want him because they said he was unreliable due to his personal problems. I fought hard for Richard and was going to quit the film but he told me not to because he needed his screenwriter fees to pay his mortgage. Then we had a long and expensive search to find the right actor for his part. When Cleavon Little auditioned, Richard was in the room and gave me a signal that he was our man!

What other help did Pryor give you on Blazing Saddles?
When I was getting so much pressure to change the script due to it being offensive to blacks, Pryor stuck behind the work. He said the script, which three other people wrote besides us, was hilarious and if it was compromised in any way then we weren’t going to make the movie we all believed in.
But didn’t you cut one big line from the final edit?
Yes. For some weird reason, and I still can’t explain why… well, there’s a scene in Madeline Kahn’s dark dressing room where she’s below frame making Cleavon very happy. She tells him with satisfaction how big he is, and his initial response, which I cut, was: “You’re sucking on my arm!”...

Do you think Blazing Saddleswould ever get made in politically correct 2016?  
How do you feel about Hillary and Trump running for president in 2016?
I don’t do political humor. It’s too passé.


  1. Blazing Saddles was the funniest movie I have ever seen. When it first came out I saw it eight times and with the exception of the last view ( I was saturated by then) I laughed so hard I slid on to floor of the theatre at least once each time. My son saw it when he was seven and his sons have seen it several times and they too have laughed their asses off!

    Beside being incisive satire it is filled with joy and goodwill, none of which, I imagine, would sit well the divisive race baiters of today.

  2. He's right, alot of hilarious movies from yesteryear wouldn't make it to the big screen in today's political climate. I'm also sure that even Pryor wouldn't be as successful as he was either with all the delicate snow flakes around.

  3. The little rascals wouldn't have been, Shirley Temple movies would have been axed, and I suppose John Wayne/Jimmy Stuart' "the man who shot Libert Valance" would not have been made either.


    And what a movie it was!