10. Gene Wilder said in an interview on TCM that at the first reading of the script he excused himself to leave for a dentist appointment he could not miss when in fact, he had to go to the unemployment office to collect a check for $55 he desperately needed at the time.
9. The "hysterical" scene was filmed at the end of a long day, and an exhausted Gene Wilder told Mel Brooks that he just didn't think he "had it in him" to shoot it that day. Brooks solved the problem by loading the actor up with sugar and caffeine (in the form of two Hershey bars and a cup of coffee), after which the scene was shot in just two takes.
8. Because of the "Springtime For Hitler" musical number, the film was initially banned in Germany, where laws against public display of Nazi symbolism had been in place since the end of World War II. It wasn't screened there until it was included in a film festival featuring the works of Jewish filmmakers.
7. The movie's line "We find the defendants incredibly guilty." was voted as the #88 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007. "I'm author. You are the audience. I outrank you!" was #14 in the same.
6. Mel Brooks has said that one of his "lifelong jobs" is "to make the world laugh at Adolf Hitler." The film was a way to enact vengeance through comedy. "The only real way I could get even with Hitler and company was to bring them down with laughter," Brooks said.
5. May contain the first use of the term "creative accounting".
4. Zero Mostel was thoroughly embarrassed by how fat he was during the filming and lamented how, for all he'd done, he'd be forever remembered as "That fat guy in The Producers."
3. One of Roger Ebert's Great Movies.
2. The name of the character Carmen Ghia (Andréas Voutsinas) comes from the Karmann Ghia, a Volkswagen coupe manufactured from 1955 to 1974.
1. Andréas Voutsinas did his own makeup.
When Mel Brooks was 16 years old, he worked for a cash-strapped theatrical producer who'd raise funds by sleeping with his investors-most of whom were elderly women. "He pounced on little old ladies and would make love to them," Brooks told The Guardian. "They gave him money for his plays, and they were so grateful for his attention." In Manhattan, Brooks also knew a pair of showmen who had more or less failed their way into prosperity. "[They] were doing flop after flop and living like kings," Brooks said. "A press agent told me, 'God forbid they should ever get a hit, because they'd never be able to pay off the backers!' I coupled the producer with these two crooks and-BANG!-there was my story."
Mel Brooks related the following in an interview with Larry Siegel in 'Playboy' in 1966:
PLAYBOY: What else are you working on?
BROOKS: Springtime for Hitler.
PLAYBOY: You're putting us on.
BROOKS: No, it's the God's honest truth. It's going to be a play within a play, or a play within a film - I haven't decided yet. It's a romp with Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun at Berchtesgaden. There was a whole nice side of Hitler. He was a good dancer - no one knows that. He loved a parakeet named Bob - no one knows that either. It's all brought out in the play.
Despite being described as a lavish production number, "Springtime for Hitler" was not ready until the first rehearsals. Mel Brooks sat with first-time composer John Morris at the piano, and improvised some lyrics. Morris then developed the stage performance with choreographer Alan Johnson, instructed to do the number "big, wonderful, flashy, but terrible." As Brooks kept suggesting bizarre costume ideas to enhance the burlesque nature of "Springtime for Hitler", such as women with clothes inspired by beer mugs and pretzels, Johnson decided to showcase them all in a parade.
Zero Mostel had it written into his contract that he didn't have to work past 5:30 PM due to a leg injury he had suffered in a bus accident. Assistant director Michael Hertzberg managed to convince him once to work overtime, by enduring Mostel screaming his lungs off at him for several minutes. And given the leg injury got worse in humid weather, the very last scene at the Lincoln Center's fountain had Mostel throwing a fit and give up on production. Sidney Glazier had to leave a dentist appointment and rush to the set where Mostel and Brooks were arguing, and once the producer managed to calm them down, the resulting scene had to be shot all night long. (it shows in the finished film, as the sky is as dark as possible).
Mel Brooks had an extremely rare deal for the production of The Producers: a contract that gave a novice director full creative control of the project. Producer Sidney Glazier gave him creative autonomy based on Brooks' comedic work with Sid Caesar and the legendary audio recording of The 2,000-Year-Old-Man that he made with Carl Reiner. Furthermore, Brooks helped his own case by agreeing to direct the picture at one-third his normal fee. Glazier raised $600,000 for the production.
According to Mel Brooks, "Jewish organizations at the beginning were outraged. They didn't get the joke." Within months of the movie's release, Brooks received angry letters from, in his estimation, "every Rabbi in New York." He took these very seriously. "I wrote [a reply to] every single letter I got, explaining 'You can't get on a soap box with Hitler. You've got to ridicule him.'"
Wilder was nervous about his first meeting with Mostel. "This huge, round, fantasy of a man came waltzing towards me," said Wilder in his 2005 autobiography Kiss Me Like a Stranger. "My heart was pounding so loud I thought he'd hear it. I stuck out my hand, politely, to shake his, but instead of shaking my hand, Zero pulled me into his body and gave me a giant kiss on the lips. All nervousness floated away...I gave a good reading and was cast."
Three years passed without Wilder receiving a phone call or any contact with Brooks about the film. He assumed the project was dead. Then one night when he was performing in the play Luv, Brooks showed up in his dressing room out of the blue with producer Sidney Glazier in tow. It was as if not a day had passed. "We got the money, here's the script, you're Leo Bloom," said Brooks. Wilder couldn't believe it. There was just one obstacle: Zero Mostel didn't know Wilder and wanted to meet him first. If he passed muster with Mostel, he had the part.
Mel Brooks, being a first time director, was often challenged in his creative decisions by Zero Mostel who had his own ideas about staging and performance after years of experience on the stage and in film. Brooks was used to the lightning pace of live television and could easily get impatient with the slowness of a film shoot. Zero, in turn, often offered unsolicited advice to Brooks on how he should direct a scene. The two lashed out at each other occasionally, but there was a mutual respect. Any animosity on the set was short lived.
One major reason the film ever got released at all was due to the intervention of Peter Sellers. After Brooks completed the picture, at that point entitled "Springtime for Hitler," executive producer Joseph E. Levine told Brooks the film wouldn't be released because he thought it was in poor taste and not very funny. Meanwhile, while Sellers was in Hollywood making I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! (1968), he liked to screen movies for him and his friends' entertainment. One night this film was screened, and Sellers loved it. When he heard it would not be released he began calling Levine, and eventually convinced him to release it - the only compromise being that the title be changed to "The Producers".