Mel Brooks sits down for some stupid questions. Comic mastermind talks about the furor -- and the fuhrer -- behind ''The Producers''

By Scott Brown
December 06, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST
Mel Brooks: Michael O'Neill/Corbis Outline

Mel Brooks believes God has blessed him, and he’s got his reasons, among them ”Young Frankenstein,” ”Blazing Saddles,” and, of course, ”The Producers,” his seminal ’60s satire about a Hitler-themed musical that’s designed to flop. Now, with the smash-hit stage version touring the country and a new DVD on shelves, he spoke to EW about audio commentaries, German premieres, and who does the best ”cat scream.”

”Don’t be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Nazi Party.” You’re famous for saying that line. What happened to the actor who was supposed to deliver it?
He did say it! But it didn’t have enough punch. So I said, ”What the hell, nobody’ll know.” And the minute I did it, everyone said, ”That’s Mel Brooks!” I had to join a million unions. I do it in the [Broadway] show, too. I also, by the way, want to take credit for another great thing I do in the show. When you hear [he yowls convincingly] that cat scream, when he’s tossed by Bialystock into that stage door, that is me screaming. I do the best cat scream.

”The Producers” is just about as far from realism as you can get, yet you claim to have had real-life inspirations.
There was a Bialystock. I can’t tell you his name because he has children and grandchildren. I worked for him. He was a Broadway-slash-Off Broadway producer, and he made love to little old ladies on his leather couch. And, believe it or not, he wore a cardboard belt. Once he got mad and yelled to me, ”What do they want from me! I’m wearing a cardboard belt!” He ripped it up right in front of me. I couldn’t laugh, because he had tears in his eyes.

The reclusive Gene Wilder appears in the DVD’s documentary.
Are there outtakes of him breaking up? Oh wait — that’s on the [upcoming] DVD of ”Young Frankenstein.” I introduce him [on that disc] by saying he’s the consummate actor, nothing fazes him, you can’t stop him with a Mack truck. And then I show 20 takes of him breaking up, falling down, not getting through anything.