Mel Brooks And David Lynch Receive Honorary Degrees From The American Film Institute
The American Film Institute (AFI) today conferred Doctorate of Fine Arts degrees honoris causa upon American comedy icon Mel Brooks and celebrated surrealist David Lynch for „contribution of distinction to the art of the moving image“ during AFI Conservatory 2012 commencement of 122 graduates at Hollywood’s landmark Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Both artists worked together on the Academy Award winning THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980), with Lynch as director and screenwriter and Brooks as executive producer. Brooks and Lynch join previous AFI Honorary Degree recipients including Robert Altman, Maya Angelou, Clint Eastwood, Roger Ebert, James Earl Jones, Nora Ephron, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Kathleen Kennedy, John Lasseter, Spike Lee, Helen Mirren, Haskell Wexler and John Williams.
Mel Brooks, whose artistry ranges from writing, directing and producing to acting and composing, received his honorary degree from Carl Reiner (THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW). The two comedy legends have been close friends since they first met on YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS (1950) and worked together on the 1967 comedy-variety special THE SID CAESAR, IMAGENE COCA, CARL REINER, HOWARD MORRIS SPECIAL and the Grammy-honored „The 2000 Year Old Man“ 1960, 1961 and 1998 comedy albums. Reiner introduced Brooks by saying, „I consider him to be my best friend and he considers me to be his best friend.“ Brooks then took the stage and, pulling out a stethoscope from under his commencement robe, quipped, „When I was offered this degree, I thought I was going to be a doctor.“ Brooks and Reiner then exchanged „The 2000 Year Old Man“ jokes. Later, Brooks told graduates, „AFI has an emotional connection to me. My dear wife, Anne Bancroft, started her career as a director-screenwriter at the AFI Directing Workshop for Women. Good things come out of AFI.“ Describing himself as a writer he advised, „If you aren’t feeling it and laughing as you write comedy, then don’t write it – because they [the audience] won’t laugh either.“
David Lynch, the talented director, screenwriter, visual artist, composer/musical artist – and AFI Conservatory alumnus (AFI Class of 1970) – received his honorary degree from Laura Dern (JURASSIC PARK, RECOUNT). Dern was only in her late teens when Lynch cast her in her break though role in BLUE VELVET (1986). Lynch also directed Dern in WILD AT HEART (1990) and INLAND EMPIRE (2006). Dern introduced Lynch by saying, „It is truly my greatest honor to introduce David – my mentor, guru and best friend. I have heard about AFI from David for many years. AFI inspired his vision and gave him the opportunity to make ERASERHEAD. I am forever grateful to AFI for inspiring David, who then gave me my career.“ Lynch called Dern his „favorite actress in the world“ and added, „AFI put me on the map – Mel Brooks put me on a beautiful mountain. Mel called me Jimmy Stewart from Mars, but he is the crazy one – he picked me to direct THE ELEPHANT MAN. It was my very good fortune that Mel had this insanity.“ Lynch then took questions from the graduating class instead of providing a traditional commencement address. When asked how he found his voice, Lynch responded, „Learning by doing is critical in the action and reaction. Learn by doing and your voice will come out – and then stay true to that voice.“ Lynch closed by saying to the graduates, „It’s a great big beautiful world and I’m so thrilled that Mel Brooks and Laura Dern and the AFI are part of it. May fate smile on you as well – you have a very interesting face.“
[Full Press Release]