Mel Brooks was ready to jump off a roof over sci-fi fiasco Solarbabies
The one complaint which could formerly have been leveled at the hilarious, bad movies-lampooning podcast How Did This Get Made? is that it rarely, if ever, answered the question raised by its title. No more! In recent times, the Paul Scheer-, Jason Mantzoukas-, and June Diane Raphael-hosted show has recruited SlashFilm writer Blake Harris to speak with the makers — or, perhaps, “perpetrators” would be a better word — of the films featured in the podcast.
Harris can now claim to have struck bona fide gold with an interview in which comedy legend Mel Brooks talks about his backing of 1986’s Solarbabies, a sci-fi movie starring Jason Patric, Jami Gertz, and Lukas Haas. Don’t remember the film? Doesn’t matter. The always entertaining Blazing Saddles director, who exec-produced the movie through his Brooksfilms production company, remembers it like it was yesterday. In particular, Brooks has excellent recall of how the budget ballooned from a modest $5 million to a jaw-dropping $23 million, making it essentially the Heaven’s Gate of — well, of whatever Solarbabies is about. To make matters much much worse? A good chunk of the money was personally guaranteed by Mel himself.
“I’m broke,” Brooks recalls in the interview. “This film… people are coming to my house and my wife (The Graduate star Anne Bancroft) is saying, ‘Who are these people in our kitchen?’ I said, ‘No, I’m just getting a little more insurance.’ But really I’m getting a second mortgage on the house. I had two cars, I put them up. I mean, I’m practically ready to jump off a roof, you know? I mean a roof like the Empire State Building, I’m ready to go. Because I am legally broke and in debt for the first time in my life. Seriously in debt… I stay up for two-three nights in a row without sleeping, and I make a phony baloney trailer so it looks like Star Wars. It looks like the greatest thing — it looks like it’s going to be the greatest sci-fi picture ever made — a fairy tale in space. Irresistible! I make a 10-minute trailer. I take it to all the studios. I almost got Michael Eisner — where was he at the time? Paramount, and then went to Disney — and he said, ‘I’ll give you back the money.’ He’s gonna give me back the $23 million, it’s gonna be his picture, you know? But [then-Paramount president of production Jeffrey] Katzenbergsaid, ‘No.’ So anyway, this movie is now, like, I hear the death knell. I hear a bell tolling late at night. I can’t sleep. Everything is mortgaged…I’m finished, I’m just finished.”
Nor were Brooks’ nights made any less restless by the comforting thought that at least he had helped make a work of cinematic genius.
“Half of it is like pretty damn good,” he tells Harris, remembering his opinion of the film at the time, “and half of it is like the worst movie I’ve ever seen in my whole life.”
And you can see the trailer for Solarbabies, below.