6. Blazzing Saddles nearly became a TV show. Brooks’ movie was so successful that Warner Brothers pushed for a spin-off television show. The pilot called Black Bart, was produced in 1975, but never made it to air. Most likely due to Brooks’ opposition about creating the show in the first place. Via Esquire:
“I hated that. I said, ‘What are you going to do, it’s 24 minutes for a sitcom, do you think you can get any of this in that time span?’ I told them it’s a big mistake. And I said I’d have nothing to do with it. They said, “But you have to write it,” and I told them no. I was right, it wasn’t good what they came up with.”
7. He brought in Alfred Hitchcock to help with High Anxiety. Brooks looked up to Hitchcock as the greatest director there ever was and wrote a letter, telling him that he was going to lampoon his style in High Anxiety. It turned out that Hitchcock enjoyed Blazing Saddles so much that he asked Brooks if he could help some with the writing on the film. In an interview with NPR, Brooks described how he would go to the director’s office at Universal Studios every Friday at noon for lunch and they would work on the script together.
“He said, ‘what are you going to do about The Birds.‘ I said, ‘well, gee, at the moment I haven’t included it.’ And he said, ‘well, why don’t you have them attack you with their – you know, with their doody.’ He said it’s going to be funny. I said ‘thank you, thank you, Mr. Hitchcock. I loved him.”
8. In addition to Dave Chapelle, Brooks made Gene Wilder a huge star. It was Brooks’ wife, Anne Bancroft, who introduced the then unknown Gene Wilder to Brooks while working on a play. Wilder appeared in Bonnie and Clyde in 1967, but it was Brooks who helped to push him into the mainstream spotlight with The Producers the same year, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory a few years later.
9. He’s also been a producer on some great movies that are not comedies. Brooks’ comedic side will always take the spotlight, but he’s worked on some incredible films outside of the comedy genre as well. Brooks was a producer on David Lynch’s The Elephant Man as well as David Cronenberg’s sci-fi bug flick, The Fly.
10. His older brother was his role model after losing his father. Brooks grew up in Williamsburg, which at the time was one of the poorest neighborhoods in Brooklyn, and lost his father at a young age to tuberculosis of the kidney. The future director would engross himself in the western and horror movies of the day and credits his brother with having a huge impact on his upbringing.
“I thank my lucky stars that I was born and that my brother Irving was so kind and good to me. He was giving me street names, he gave me a tricycle, trying to make up for the loss of—I didn’t realize it, but trying to make up for the loss of our father.”
Oh, and that Black Bart pilot eventually made its way to the internet.