Wednesday, November 1


One of my creative mentors, Dan Fauci, likes to say, "If you're not dangerous, you're dead."

Although Dan Fauci was addressing his comment to actors, this is true in any artistic endeavor. If you're not dangerous, if you're not challenging yourself and challenging the audience, you're probably dead...or not far from it.

One of the problems with most contemporary motion pictures, for example, is they're not remotely dangerous. Just the opposite. They're watered down and sanitized until they offend no one...and thereby appeal to almost no one. Worse still, young filmmakers (and actors, etc.) often self-censor their own work in the hopes that they'll appeal to the "broadest possible audienc" and make a name for themselves.

The end result, of course, is they don't stand out from the crowd. They remain safe and bland and unknown.

The other day I watched I a recent Dick Cavett interview of Mel Brooks, and Mr. Brooks talked about the process of creating BLAZING SADDLES. At every opportunity, Mel Brooks and his fellow screenwriters (Andrew Bergman and a then-unknown Richard Pryor) went for the craziest situation, joke, insult or gag they could imagine. During production, Mel Brooks encouraged his actors to go even further, telling them, "Don't worry about offending anyone. Nobody's EVER going to see this picture. It's never going to be played anywhere, because it's too crazy, so let's just have fun with it and make the picture we want to see."

By the way, BLAZING SADDLES came after Mel Brooks had two terrible flops in a row...THE PRODUCERS, which made absolutely no money on its initial release, and 12 CHAIRS, which somehow lost more money than it cost in the first place. So at this time in his life, Mel Brooks was starving and desperate, barely able to pay his rent and with a baby on the way, but he stuck to his creative guns and went for the most dangerous comedy he could imagine, despite the fact that it didn't seem to be in his best financial interests.

And the end result, of course, is history. BLAZING SADDLES today is considered one of the classic American comedies of all time.

But it never would've happened if Mel Brooks wasn't just willing, but insisent, on being dangerous.

No comments: