Mel Brooks has made a host of classic cinematic comedies, but if he were tasked with making arguably his most famous — and beloved — film today, the writer-producer-director-star believes he’d be destined for failure.
In a new interview with Craig Modderno at The Daily Beast, the 90-year-old Hollywood icon was asked if he thought he could get Blazing Saddles — his 1974 Western comedy starring Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder as a railroad worker-turned-sheriff and a drunken gunslinger, respectively — made in today’s movie-industry climate. The answer? An emphatic “no!”
Brooks, who will speak after a special screening of Blazing Saddles at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall on Sept. 1, discusses how, even back in the ’70s, Warner Bros. studio executives were far from eager to see his version of the film released.
“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… 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.” Among the choice suggestions Brooks remembers: “‘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?'”
History has proven that Brooks was right about his film, as it remains one of American cinema’s most well-loved (and oft-quoted) comedies. To read Brooks’ thoughts on his struggle to get both Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein produced — as well as the way Dustin Hoffman backed out of starring in 1968’s The Producers in order to work opposite Brooks’ wife Anne Bancroft in The Graduate — check out his entire interview with The Daily Beast here.
Watch the ‘Blazing Saddles’ trailer: