‘Slash Film: Mel Brooks Wrote A Key Role In History Of The World, Part I With Richard Pryor In Mind’

Slash Film

Richard Pryor was well-known for his pretty unmatched talents as a standup comedian. He was also well-known for his dalliances in a variety of vices. One of those vices was cocaine, which was a difficult thing to escape if you were an incredibly famous person at that time. Pryor dealt with a lot of demons in his life, and one of the ways that manifested was in freebasing cocaine. Two days before he was to start shooting on “History of the World, Part I,” he was freebasing and decided to cover himself in rum and set himself on fire. He was rushed to the hospital and sustained some pretty terrible burns. Mel Brooks wrote about the incident for The New York Times back in 1981:

“I called all night, the hospital was flooded with calls and I couldn’t get an answer. It wasn’t until Monday morning that we were relieved to find out that he would survive.”

Luckily, Pryor survived and was eventually able to go back out on the road and create some of the most honest and hilarious standup comedy ever conceived afterwards. After all, what do they say about tragedy and time?

Despite this horrifying situation, the production of “History of the World, Part I” still had to go ahead, and they needed a new Josephus. Brooks considered writing the part out of the movie in respect to Pryor, but then Madeline Kahn, one of Brooks’ most important collaborators, suggested Gregory Hines to replace him. Hines immediately came out to California, though hesitant about the whole situation. Brooks alleviated those fears the only way he could:

“Gregory knew Richard Pryor was going to play the role and was worried about filling such big shoes. I said, ‘Don’t worry,’ glancing down, ‘you’ve got big feet!'”

/Film – ‘Slash Film: Mel Brooks Wrote A Key Role In History Of The World, Part I With Richard Pryor In Mind’
Author: Mike Shutt
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January 19, 2023

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