En route to perform two back-to-back shows in Vegas, Mel Brooks made a pit stop to introduce the 50th anniversary world premiere restoration of “The Producers” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, but it was another comedy legend that everyone on the red carpet was talking about: Bill Cosby.
Rosanna Arquette agreed with the verdict. “Justice was served today,” she said. “I cried for the women. But we all feel justice was served. And let’s hope it keeps going with many other people whose lives and careers have been ravaged by predators.” Arquette was one of the many women to speak out amid the sexual harassment controversy surrounding Harvey Weinstein.
“I think he has to get some time even though it was so long ago,” said Dana Delany, who was celebrating a different milestone — her TV series “China Beach” premiered 30 years ago on the day. “I’m happy for girls starting out now that they know they don’t have to deal with it, that they can say something and there won’t be consequences.
“When I started out,” the veteran actress recalled, “you wouldn’t get the job and you’d be blackballed. They’d never hire you again.”
“He’s the greatest serial rapist in history, and it’s about time that he’s getting his just evil desserts,” Paul Sorvino told Variety. “He raped all these women. It’s beyond belief and outrageous. He should have been remanded today and in jail now — that’s the only thing that disappoints me.”
Some celebrity guests at the screening, which served as the opening night gala of the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival, made light of the heavy subject. “I think if Bill is going to go in the stirrer, you want to go in there under the radar, so I would probably get rid of those sweaters,” joked Dennis Miller, referring to Cosby’s trademark look on “The Cosby Show.”
And Brooks, who has been known to find humor even in the darkest situations–Nazi Germany and Adolph Hitler, for instance — refused to comment on Cosby before directing the conversation to the evening’s celebration.
“All I can tell you is that I am so happy that we are seeing — 50 years later — Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder and Kenny Mars in ‘The Producers’ on an enormous screen,” Brooks added. “We’re not watching it on a watch, we’re not seeing it on a telephone. I’m so afraid that my movies have been reduced to watches and telephones. It’s ridiculous.”
Political correctness, however, never got in the way of a good joke as far as the writer-director was concerned. “I was never afraid of that,” Brooks told Variety. “I have fun with the human condition — with human dreams and human failings. The two characters [in ‘The Producers’] are out for a killing, they’re out to make a lot of money, and it all falls apart. But what they find is friendship, they find a love for each other, which it seems to be more important in the end than the money.”
The night wasn’t all about Brooks. Martin Scorsese was being honored with the inaugural Robert Osborne Award. “I love Marty Scorsese so much, mostly because he’s shorter than me and I look so tall next to him,” joked Brooks. “He gave me my AFI Award and he’s such a pioneer, like Kubrick, for important film.”
“Marty and I started making movies nearly 20 years ago now,” said the director’s longtime collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio, by way of introducing his “friend and a champion of cinema” inside the iconic theater palace. The venue served as the backdrop for their only PG-13-rated film together, and Scorsese seemed lost in all the nostalgia when he took the stage.
“Do you remember the last time we were here? We did Aviator here. We shot it there. You were playing Howard Hughes and Gwen Stefani was doing Jean Harlow,” Scorsese recalled. “Actually, ‘The Aviator’ is one of the very, very few films of mine they can show on TCM.”
The TCM Classic Film Festival runs April 26-29.