Mel Brooks and David Lynch to Receive AFI Honorary Degrees
The American Film Institute (AFI) announced it will confer 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 commencement 2012 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.
Reflecting his range of mastery in the entertainment arts, Mel Brooks is only one of 14 people who have won the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award, and his artistry ranges from writing, directing and producing to acting and composing. Sid Caesar hired Brooks as a writer for YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS in 1950, where he was among a storied staff that included Carl Reiner (THE Dick Van Dyke SHOW) and Neil Simon (THE ODD COUPLE). He joined forces with Buck Henry in 1965 to create the hit television series GET SMART starring Don Adams as agent Maxwell Smart. Brooks' first venture into film was as a voice actor in THE CRITIC (1963), which won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film. He again won the Oscar – for Best Original Screenplay – for his first feature, THE PRODUCERS (1968). Brooks is known for his comedy films including BLAZING SADDLES (1974), YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974), SILENT MOVIE (1976), HIGH ANXIETY (1977), HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART 1 (1981), TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1983), SPACEBALLS (1987), LIFE STINKS (1991), ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS (1993) and DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT (1995). His films have been recognized by the American Film Institute as among the funniest American movies of all time, with three films in the top 15 of AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs list; BLAZING SADDLES ranked #6, THE PRODUCERS ranked #11 and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN ranked #13.
Director, screenwriter, visual artist, composer/musical artist – and AFI Conservatory alumnus – David Lynch (AFI Class of 1970) is known for his darker, dreamlike explorations of American life. In 1977, his debut, ERASERHEAD – which began as his thesis film while attending AFI Conservatory – premiered at Filmex, the precursor to the American Film Institute's AFI Fest. Since then, the award-winning filmmaker has continued to craft some of the world's most immersive noir dreamscapes, gaining mainstream success and a reputation as an innovator, first with THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980), which earned him the first of two Academy Award nominations, for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, and then with TWIN PEAKS, which broke new ground in series television in 1990. His film works range from sci-fi to crime-drama and include DUNE (1984), BLUE VELVET (1986), TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME (1992), LOST HIGHWAY (1997), THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999), MULHOLLAND DR. (2001) and INLAND EMPIRE (2006).
Lynch returned to AFI Fest in 2010 as its first Guest Artistic Director, where he also created the key art for the festival's poster. Lynch also composes music selections for his films and has recorded multiple albums, most recently "Crazy Clown Time," released in November 2011. MULHOLLAND DR. was honored by the American Film Institute at AFI Awards 2001 as one of the most outstanding films of the year. BLUE VELVET has been honored by AFI as one of the greatest mysteries of all time and as one of America's most heart-pounding movies in AFI's 100 Years…100 Thrills. Also, Frank Booth from BLUE VELVET was ranked among the greatest villains of all time on AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains list.
The AFI Conservatory is renowned for its collaborative approach to hands-on filmmaking and its advanced training of the next generation of storytellers in six filmmaking disciplines: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting. Previous recipients of the AFI Honorary Degree include 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.
Among the premier theaters in Los Angeles, 2012 marks the first AFI Commencement at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, which opened in 1927 with the world premiere of Cecil B. DeMille's biblical epic THE KING OF KINGS and was declared a cultural and historic landmark in 1968. The renowned exhibition space has been host to numerous premieres, from STAR WARS (1977) to INCEPTION (2010), and has also hosted three Academy Award ceremonies. Titans of the silver screen from actors such as Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Jack Nicholson and Elizabeth Taylor to directors including George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have their hand and footprints memorialized in cement in the courtyard of the historic theater. For the past three years, Grauman's Chinese has been the exhibition home to AFI Fest – the American Film Institute's annual celebration of excellence in global cinema – with Hollywood Boulevard lighting up over eight consecutive nights each November with red carpet premieres and screenings that have ranged from A SINGLE MAN (2009) to BLACK SWAN (2010) to J. EDGAR (2011).