solarbabies dvd

Mel Brooks: And Solarbabies is not a failure! It’s not a failure, you can look it up. It’s even, it’s broken [even]. I don’t know who saw it and why. There must have been…you know, I think what saved me was the invention of DVDs. Until then, there was no such thing as DVDs. So the invention of DVDs, the invention of television—of streaming—and all these outlets for films and hungry studios that needed material for distribution. So it got caught up in that and got to even. It’s just amazing, [a] miracle; it’s a miracle.

Blake Harris: It really is. Actually, one more question if you don’t mind: Do you remember the premiere of that movie given all the turmoil you had gone through and what a strange situation you were in?

Mel Brooks: No, I think the most I ever did was show 13 minutes of it to UPM. To these guys that put in 10 or 14 million dollars. I mean, it was crazy. And I would say that about—oh, I don’t know—honestly, the performances are so good. Patric and Jami Gertz. Lukas Haas and Durning. I’d say that about 65 percent of it is a really good, interesting picture. And the other 35 percent, you know, you can get through. You get to the next part, you get to the good parts. And you know, with these crazy wacky pictures, there’s always a swath of young people that claim it as a different and wonderful movie. It has fans. I mean, I get letters—from Brazil or something; someone has to translate them from Portuguese—but they like the movie. I mean, they see something different. They see something wild and creative and different. You never know, you know?

Blake Harris: That’s incredible. Thank you so much, Mr. Brooks.


Mel Brooks: So what are you going to do with this? With this incredible story? Blake, I think you just gotta broadcast it, you know?

Blake Harris: Yeah, I think so too.

Mel Brooks: Yeah, I think the world should know: The secret of this interview is never give up, there are unknown and unseen miracles that may save you. Now, are you doing only failures [laughing] on this program?

Blake Harris: For the most part, but there are some successful ones on there. But to your point, it’s really interesting, every single person I’ve spoken with—almost everything single person—has always said “but the movie became a cult hit” because [these movies] are finding their audience now.

Mel Brooks: It has found a weird and, you know, emotionally active audience that loves it, So different means different things to different people.

Blake Harris: Yup.

Mel Brooks: It’s a different film, you know? For me, it’s so different that I’d never walk in that direction again. But for somebody who’s 14 years old who sees it, it may be like—I don’t know—like finding Shangri-La, nirvana. Finding something unattainable and beautiful, you know? Young people have glorious imaginations. And it was my fault. I didn’t do, I didn’t do what the head of a company—and it was my company, Brooksfilms—[needed to do]. I made beautiful films at Brooksfilms because I supervised them. Because I produced them personally. It was The Fly, The Elephant Man, 84 Charing Cross Road, My Favorite Year. I’m giving you a list of the sterling [examples].


Blake Harris: What made you start Brooksfilms?

Mel Brooks: You know why I started it? Because Billy Wilder told me to. Billy Wilder said, “You’re a magnificent director, but you’ll never get a chance to do a serious film. So take your name off it, just take your name off it. Take Mel Brooks away, take the baggage away. Because if you did The Elephant Man, people would just laugh. There must be a funny trunk or something. Just make it Brooksfilms and produce them and supervise them. Kind of direct them from afar. And then you’ll be able to follow your heart and do more serious or artistic films than the public will allow you to do as Mel Brooks. So thank god for Billy Wilder. I did that—I’ve made about, I don’t know, 14 Brooksfilms—and most of them are pretty good.

Blake Harris: Well, what do you think it was that… following your heart was a direction that was not comedy? Obviously you were still doing comedy films, but…


Mel Brooks: Because my wife, Anne Bancroft, had done a beautiful film and they couldn’t find a studio for it. She had done a film called Fatso and everyone thought it was silly—just a silly film about a fat guy—and it was very, very meaningful…very funny, ‘cause Dom DeLuise was the star and Anne was in it…but it was a very rich, beautiful and truly Italian-American film, you know? The language and the attitudes were…it was a great film. And nobody would make that script, so I jumped in. And Laddie, god bless him, released it. And that one got even too. And then from there on, everything I released was a big hit. Elephant Man was a big hit.

Blake Harris: Yeah.

The Fly

Mel Brooks: The Fly was an amazing, you know, big, big hit. There were some that have not gotten even, but I’m so glad I made them. And they didn’t cost very much to make. A film called A Doctor and a Devil, it’s a great film.

Blake Harris: Were there ever any films that you wanted to make but didn’t for whatever reason?

Mel Brooks: Oh, well, there were one or two. I was thinking about making something about the Holocaust. Seriously.

Blake Harris: Wow.

Mel Brooks: And then I saw [Life is Beautiful]. It’s ridiculous, you know? And it won the Academy Award or something.

Blake Harris: It did, it did.


Mel Brooks: I thought it was a foolish take on this incredible, you know, monumental tragedy. And then I wanted to make a movie—and I still could make one—about my adventures, half funny and half sad, as a soldier in World War II.

Blake Harris: I was really curious about that; I guess that warrants a separate conversation…

Mel Brooks: I was ducking a lot of 88 millimeter shells. The Germans were very accurate with it, you know?

Blake Harris: When you were in the war and you thought about coming back, did you have in mind that you wanted to do comedy television stuff?

Mel Brooks: No, no, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as television. When I was coming back, I wanted to be a stand-up comic in nightclubs. That’s what I knew before I left.

Blake Harris: How come?

Mel Brooks: Well, because I had worked in the mountains. In the Borscht Belt in the Catskills. And that’s what I did, I was a stand-up comic. So I figured, I was just hoping to live through the war and come back and do that again.

Blake Harris: Ah, okay.

Mel Brooks: Hey, Blake, it’s been a pleasure and I love the idea of exhuming [laughing] all these dead little films. Some of them have great stories and some real worth, you know? And I think you can find a little gold when you dig them up.

Blake Harris: Yeah, well, this is definitely the biggest golden nugget we’ve found yet. So thank you so much, Mel, this is…

Mel Brooks: Yeah, I mean this is a story you can have a lot of fun with. Solarbabies: the greatest disaster turning into victory of my life.

Blake Harris: Yup. Have a great night. Thank you so much.

Mel Brooks: Alright, good luck, Blake.

Special Thanks to Shelby Van Vliet (associate producer at Brooksfilms) for helping to arrange this interview and to Rick Gershman (copy editor extraordinaire) for getting this piece into Brooks-worthy shape. 

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