Before I can get a question out, Mel Brooks jumps in.
“What would you like to know?” he begins. “I can tell you this. On April 26th, I’ll be on stage at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood celebrating the 50th—hard to believe!—anniversary of this movie, The Producers, that Zero Mostel said no to.”
Perhaps at 91 years old, Brooks just doesn’t have to time to wait and see what you want to ask him. And he has plenty to say, especially as he prepares to be honored for his first feature film at the TCM Classic Film Festival this month, almost 50 years to the day after he won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
While Gene Wilder jumped at the opportunity to portray Leo Bloom, Brooks explains that Mostel initially had no interest in playing his counterpart Max Bialystock. “He said, ‘Two Jews putting on a Hitler thing? No, it’s stupid, it’s crazy, no, I’m not going to do it,’” Brooks continues. “And then, I think two years later he did Ionesco’s The Rhinoceros and I said, ‘You didn’t want to do this but you’ll run around on stage playing a rhinoceros for two hours?’”