I listened as the radio team of Opie & Anthony got sacked from WNEW-FM radio in 2002 after they launched a Sex for Sam stunt. They sent couples across Manhattan competing to have sex in the most outrageous public place and the hosts got sacked after one randy couple chose St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Ave. It wasn’t their first pink slip, but when the duo signed with SiriusXM, I didn’t think Opie & Anthony would ever get fired again. The satellite radio format allows them to use every cuss word imaginable; same for fellow host Howard Stern. For raunchy content, they are outdone by the explicit sex shows hosted by porn stars on the satellite radio dial, where nothing is out of bounds. Despite this, co-host Anthony Cumia managed to find a way to get fired by SiriusXM anyway, not for radio content but for taking to his personal Twitter account to vilify a woman in foul mouthed fashion that he says punched him when she objected to being in the frame of photos he was taking in Manhattan late at night. Cumia, often a very funny comedian and impressionist who personifies the low-tolerance-cranky white guy on the O&A show, let loose a stream of epithets that insulted her gender, wished her dead, and also identified her as being black. And then betrayed deep-seated prejudice in an ensuing series of hate-filled rants when he received critical reactions. SiriusXM fired him after his Twitter posts made headlines.
Conan O’Brien will devote most of his TBS show Tuesday to guest Mel Brooks, who will talk about close friend Sid Caesar, who died this week at age 91. Brooks famously worked with Caesar on historically significant TV programs including NBC’s comedy series Your Show Of Shows, which aired in the early ’50s and boasted a writing staff that included Brooks, Neil Simon and Carl Reiner, among others. Conan boasts the youngest-skewing audience of the late-night talkers. Back in the fall of 2013, O’Brien did a Serious Jibber Jabber with Brooks about the latter’s long career in film and TV. Watch here:
Listen to (and share) episode 30 of our audio podcast Deadline Awards Watch With Pete Hammond. Deadline’s awards columnist talks with host David Bloom about the fevered campaign attending the opening week of Emmy nominations voting; Behind The Candelabra, The Bible and other contenders for Emmy Best Movie or Miniseries; Mel Brooks and his AFI Lifetime Achievement Award; and the week’s notable movies, led by one Man Of Steel, along with the apocalyptic comedy This Is The End and two terrific specialty-market releases, Sofia Coppola’s tale of true crime and celebrity culture The Bling Ring and a fine look at the backing singers for countless rock music hits, 20 Feet From Stardom.
It was completely appropriate that AFI‘s 41st Life Achievement Award honoree Mel Brooks made his entrance at the Dolby Theatre to the Steven Sondheim song, “Comedy Tonight”. It set the tone immediately for a very different evening than any that had come before at this annual event. Look at the list of the 40 previous AFI honorees, and there’s not a single solely comedic filmmaker or actor in the whole bunch. Yes, there are some — like Billy Wilder, Mike Nichols, Shirley MacLaine and Tom Hanks — who have made a few classic comedies but no one whose whole screen career is built on laughs. The AFI finally corrected that glaring omission Thursday night.
“Ladies and gentlemen, tonight the American Film Institute honors the art — and the farts — of American film,” said AFI Board Of Trustees Chair Sir Howard Stringer in welcoming the star-studded crowd. “When I telephoned Mel to tell him the AFI had voted him in as the 2013 recipient, he responded instantly, ‘What took you so long?’ Fair enough. Comedy is routinely short-changed at many awards ceremonies , particularly the Oscars. It is often said comedy is harder than drama because funny is like trying to catch lightning in a bottle. That makes Mel, without question, Hollywood’s principal lightning conductor.”
Los Angeles, CA, Monday May 20, 2013 – Martin Scorsese will present Mel Brooks with the American Film Institute’s 41st Life Achievement Award – America’s highest honor for a career in film. The private black tie gala will be held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on June 6 and will air on TNT Saturday, June 15, at 9 p.m. ET/PT and as part of an all-night tribute to Brooks on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Sunday, July 24, at 8 p.m. ET. Brooks will be recognized for his range of mastery as a director, producer, writer, actor and composer.
American Masters documentary Mel Brooks: Make A Noise premieres May 20 on PBS. Here’s a clip in which Brooks talks about his 1970 classic, The Twelve Chairs, which screens tomorrow at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. The filmmaker will be on hand for a discussion of the comedy. In the clip, Young Frankenstein producer Michael Gruskoff and Joan Rivers chat about Brooks’ affinity for staying up late to read the classics:
Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
Two venerable creative forces held journalists enthralled for more than an hour and a half – no easy task – at today’s TCA PBS panel. Novelist Philip Roth, who turns 80 in March, and Mel Brooks, 86, are both subjects of upcoming American Masters documentaries this year (Philip Roth: Unmasked premieres March 29 and Mel Brooks: Make a Noise premieres May 20).
Mel Brooks showed up late, so the session began with Roth, speaking via satellite. Introducing the two artists, American Masters series creator and executive producer Susan Lacey said that the Roth documentary is the first film biography of Roth.
The two men spoke separately, but both addressed the issue of whether or not they considered themselves “Jewish” writers. Both said no. “I don’t write in Jewish, I write in American,” Roth said. He said he considers himself a “regionalist” when it comes to his work. “Bellow and Faulkner were regionalists, they write about the place they come from. So did Joyce,” said Roth. “I write about the locale I come from, and that particular locale was full of Jews, including me and my family.”
Brooks started out with a Jewish joke of sorts: “I’m not such a comedy giant, I’m 5-foot-6″, he said. “There are guys who aren’t as funny, but they’re taller.” He said growing up he once heard his mother talking to his friend about a woman leaving her husband. “She said: ‘How could she leave him? He was so tall,’ ” Brooks recounted. “This is the way Jews think.”
At a PBS panel on the American Masters series, Mel Brooks — the subject of an upcoming documentary — said that he is thinking about turning his movie Blazing Saddles into his next Broadway musical. “A lot of it is musical already,” Brooks said. “It has a rather fanciful and fantastic tone to it. and now that Django Unchained has literally used the N word, I think I’m in the clear. I don’t look so bad. He really used that word a lot.”
June is the season for graduations around the nation and the American Film Institute is no different. After handing out their 40th Life Achievement Award less than a week ago to Shirley MacLaine today the focus was on those just embarking on a career in the entertainment industry (in addition to two very well-known veterans).
This AFI Commencement stood out as a purely Hollywoood affair taking place not on their own campus, but rather a short distance away inside Grauman’s Chinese theatre. In addition to the 121 graduates receiving their AFI diplomas in fields including screenwriting, directing, producing, production design, cinematography and editing, the undisputed highlight of the 90-minute ceremony (presided over by AFI CEO and President Bob Gazzale) were the two Honorary Degree recipients Mel Brooks and David Lynch.
It was actually appropiate the two receive these honors together because Mel, through his production entity Brooksfilm actually gave Lynch his first big directing job on 1980′s much-acclaimed Best Picture nominee The Elephant Man resulting in a Best Director Oscar nomination for Lynch. After a funny intro from “best friend” Carl Reiner and a clip reel covering such Brooks classics as The 2000 Year Old Man, The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein among others, Brooks stepped up to tell Reiner he was confused by it all. “I’m very honored and I’m very happy but bitterly disappointed. When I was offered this award I thought I was gonna become a doctor. And in fact I was …
LOS ANGELES, CA, May 29, 2012 – The American Film Institute (AFI) announced it will confer Doctorate of Fine Arts degrees honoris causa upon American comedy icon Mel Brooks and celebrated surrealist David Lynch for “contribution of distinction to the art of the moving image” during AFI Conservatory commencement 2012 at Hollywood’s landmark Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Both artists worked together on the Academy Award winning THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980), with Lynch as director and screenwriter and Brooks as executive producer. Previous recipients of the AFI Honorary Degree include Robert Altman, Maya Angelou, Clint Eastwood, Roger Ebert, James Earl Jones, Nora Ephron, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Kathleen Kennedy, John Lasseter, Spike Lee, Helen Mirren, Haskell Wexler and John Williams.
(Photos: Getty Images)
UPDATE EXCLUSIVE: Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and Ron Howard have reached a milestone unusual in Hollywood: partners for 25 years. When they first got together, Grazer was a TV producer. Howard, after growing up on the small screen in The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days, had only directed a couple of TV movies and the low budget Roger Corman-produced Grand Theft Auto. Grazer and Howard have been at it together ever since, building a company that over 25 years has been one of the most consistent generators of content. Their TV series output includes 24, Parenthood, Arrested Development and Friday Night Lights; their movies have grossed $13.5 billion worldwide. That includes A Beautiful Mind, which won Howard the Academy Award for Best Director. Grazer and Howard shared Best Picture Oscars that night as well. Not everything they’ve done has succeeded, of course. They they took their company public and repurchased the shares; they helped launched and fold the online venture Pop.com; their most recent film together, the adult comedy The Dilemma, was a misfire that created controversy over the inclusion of the word “gay” in a trailer. They’ve had way more hits than misses.
In honor of Imagine’s Silver Anniversary, Deadline invited Howard and Grazer to look back over their quarter century together, and into a future that includes something never tried before by anyone in Hollywood. They’re adapting Stephen King’s 7-novel series The Dark Tower into a film trilogy, and a limited run TV series in between. It has pushed the envelope enough that their longtime home studio, Universal Pictures, postponed a planned late summer start until next year and asked the filmmakers to cut the budget. Some question the studio’s resolve on such a massive undertaking. The studio has to green light the film by next month or the rights revert to Imagine, Akiva Goldsman and King, who are determined to make it regardless.
DEADLINE: Not many marriages of any kind last 25 years in Hollywood. What is most important about the anniversary?
HOWARD: It’s such a challenging time to get movies made. And yet, look at all we have coming out. Tower Heist, the Gus Van Sant movie Restless, J Edgar with Clint Eastwood and Leo DiCaprio, Cowboys & Aliens, this big broad appeal four quadrant fantasy adventure story with Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig. With The Playboy Club getting on the air, and Parenthood getting picked up, I’m proud we’re doing what we’ve always done. A wide variety of projects that got made because we care and put in the energy to get them done in light of how difficult it is these days.
DEADLINE: Simple as that?
HOWARD: Because I’m in New York, we’re not forced to stare at each other’s faces 24/7. But I think that’s not really it. We love what we’re doing, we have fun doing it and our sensibilities are in sync. In a business that can create so many feelings of anxiety and self-doubt, I learned to trust in that. Brian is smart and cares about me doing well and feeling good about what I’m doing. It’s a partnership built on support. It has been that way since the beginning.
GRAZER: It works because we have similar tastes and not only gravitate toward the same material but also what lives inside the core of the movie it becomes. We’ve done, and Ron has directed, all kinds of genres. We have a common interest in the humanity aspect of a movie, regardless if it’s a comedy or a drama. We also share a similar work ethic.
DEADLINE: When you cover all genres, does Imagine have a wheelhouse? For a company looking to last, is it advisable to have one?
HOWARD: The process is what gets Brian and me excited, whatever the genre. Not specializing has given our company a sense of flexibility and adaptability to whatever the market or the zeitgeist is suggesting. We’ve always respected each other as creative people. If Brian loves something and I don’t quite get it, I’ll tell him that but I’ll never try to impede the progress. He’s the same with me. With Apollo 13, I wasn’t sure the genre would work, because space films hadn’t done that well. Brian was instantly so excited about it, and made me realize we were onto something. 8 Mile, I don’t know anything about rap. This was something he understood. I didn’t know how to make that movie, but I recognized a great idea. Whenever the two of us get excited, on films like Splash, Night Shift and Parenthood, those have resulted in the building blocks of the company. I’ve always liked TV but I phased it out for awhile and it was Brian’s perseverance that has made us strong in both TV and films. Independent companies are rarely strong in both.
GRAZER: What we’ve do is agree on the moral center of a project, but nobody’s better at finding the language of a particular movie than Ron. He’s got a grasp of understanding new vocabularies, whether it’s the The Da Vinci Code, fantasy like Cocoon or Splash, or Backdraft and The Grinch. He is great at inhabiting a world and completely understanding and expressing its language. In A Beautiful Mind, he entered that world and understood the medical science of mental illness. So there have been times where he led the charge, and I was drawn in by his excitement.
DEADLINE: What was the last hard conversation or professional disagreement you can remember?
HOWARD: I can’t think of one offhand, but even when we have disagreements, I can’t think of a case where one of us ever said, ‘Oh, please don’t do this.’ If there’s a lot of passion from one or the other, then the support of the company is going to be there.
20th Century Fox and Peter and Bobby Farrelly have set Sean Hayes to play Larry in The Three Stooges, the slapstick comedy that is slated to begin production later this month. He joins Will Sasso, who had previously been set to play Curly. The search is still on for the role of Moe, a role that has had a number of actors circling. Hayes has physical comedy chops and showed during readings that he had the ability to play a lovable simpleton, something that amateur boxer-turned-punching bag Larry Fine did so well. Many, including Peter Farrelly, feel that Fine’s understated work anchored the original Stooges shorts by creating a buffer between Moe’s stern persona and Curly’s manic physical comic energy. Hayes was last seen on Broadway in a year-long run in Promises, Promises, has starred in films that include The Bucket List, and of course starred in Will & Grace.
I’ve seen that Deadline readers are reluctant to embrace a Stooges movie, each time I write about it. I see it differently. I am eager to see what the Farrellys are capable of, after putting 12 years into this passion project and honing the script to the point where they feel they can retain the signature slapstick while delivering a PG rating.
EXCLUSIVE: They are among the leading comedians of their generations and both hail from Chicago’s Second City. Steve Carell and David Steinberg have teamed for a documentary that will chronicle the evolution of comedy over the past sixty years through the eyes of several generations of comedians. The yet-untitled documentary, from Carell’s Carousel Prods., is already in production. Among the comedians interviewed by Steinberg are veterans Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Lily Tomlin, Don Rickles, and Carol Burnett, trendsetters Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, Judd Apatow and Robin Williams, more recent stars Sarah Silverman, Chris Rock, Jane Lynch, and Tina Fey, as well as a host of up-and-comers. “We’re honored that so many legendary comedic performers have chosen to be part of this,” Carell said. Steinberg and Carell had known each other for awhile. Asked how their partnership on the documentary came to be, Steinberg deadpanned: “Short story: Carell’s career floundering. I throw him a bone. End of story.” Carell and Steinberg are producing the documentary, which is targeted for TV distribution, with Carousel Prods.’ Vance DeGeneres and Charlie Hartsock as well as writers Alan Zweibel and Josh Etting.
Steinberg is one of the country’s best known comedians of the 1960s-70s who went on to become a top comedy series director and worked on such series as Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He previously showcased top comedians on his informal interview-style show Sit …