As Broadway's brightest stars gather for this year's Tony awards on Sunday, 60 Minutes decided to look back to Broadway's biggest hit ever — and maybe its funniest musical comedy ever. The show is, of course, "The Producers." Before it opened five years ago, correspondent Mike Wallace caught up with its lunatic creator, Mel Brooks, who based the play on his own fabled 1968 movie of the same name.
"Tell me something. The show ...," Wallace tried to ask Brooks.
"Is that a hundred-dollar watch? Let me see that watch," Brooks asked Wallace.
"It's about a $40 watch," Wallace replied.
"Really?" Brooks asked.
"Yeah. Lights up in the dark," Wallace explained.
"What a cheap son of a bitch you are," Brooks said.
"You got that right," Wallace responded. "You're a great judge of character."
So would you give this man $10.5 million to put on a Broadway show? A bunch of savvy producers did just that, even though they knew that Brooks was sure to make fun of what it is they do.
You may remember that in the original movie, Zero Mostel played the former Broadway king who hadn't had a hit in a long time. When the show debuted on Broadway in 2001, Nathan Lane played the character, Max Bialystock, and Matthew Broderick played Leo Bloom, the creative accountant who realizes that crime could pay if they cheated their investors.
"Two Jews decide to put on a musical play and raise, instead of 100 percent, 25,000 percent," Brooks explained. The money would be raised by seducing "little old ladies."
"On their way to the cemetery, they all stop off at Max Bialystock 's office for a little shtup, and they give him a check made out to the title of the play, 'Cash,'" Brooks said.
Bialystock and Bloom search for a sure-fire flop, the most offensive play ever written, and they found it: something called "Springtime For Hitler."
This 1968 movie was Brooks' first feature film — and the first time he had ever written and directed. It won him an Academy Award for best original screenplay. But it may come as a surprise to you that it also marked Brooks' debut as a composer.
Brooks told Wallace he writes music "into a tape recorder," while singing and playing the piano.
Into his tape recorder, he has sung the music and lyrics to some 16 new songs — and, along with collaborator Tom Meehan, he's written the script for the show.