David DeLuise | Interview | American Masters | PBS (2024)

Interviewer: You need to have. We good? So when did you first become aware of Mel?

David DeLuise: I believe the first time. Well, the first thing I can remember about Mel. When he came over to the house and at the DeLuise house, we like to play like games, and one of the games was who could fart the fastest? And Mel didn’t believe that we could fart on cue. And my dad said, one, two, and I farted. And Mel laughed so hard that he fell on the ground. So I think that that secured me maybe a part in a movie coming up with, you know. The way that I remember Mel, I mean, Mel is on camera when he’s working, he’s big. He usually does big things. But this is my imitation of Mel on a Sunday on a relaxed Sunday. Hey, Dave, how ma? Yeah. You look great. Good to see ya. Know what I mean, he just was I was like, who is that? You know, because you see what you watch. You know, you watch him in history of the world and he’s bigger than life. And then he was he was this calm. I mean, he could, you know, get very energetic in real life. But I always saw him as a calm man, you know.

David DeLuise: How do you describe the relationship between your dad and Mel?

David DeLuise: I think. I think Mel saw something in my dad that was special. You know, he had he had the gift to make people laugh. I mean. No matter where we went, people were always say. Dommy, hey, love you, you know, he was a very approachable man and I think Mel really saw that in him, that he can turn anything funny. You know, as my mom pointed out, there’d be a baseline of the script and what was to happen. And then they would go from there. You know, it wasn’t about just shooting. And this was before, you know, like the style of comedy now is let’s do a take that’s in the script and then let’s make up whatever we do. You know, like, let’s do improv. And that really wasn’t happening back then. But they did it. And a lot of that stuff stayed in the films, you know. Mel, let my dad be funny, you know, be himself. Which was great and smart of him to do.

Interviewer: They had a comaraderie on screen and off. So off screen because I know, for example, he went to the maybe you guys were part of this, too, but I don’t think so. He went to the Van Pattens to play tennis and all that.

David DeLuise: Oh, yeah. We’d go to the Van Pattens and I have a photo of my dad in shorts, which you never see. I don’t know if I should tell this story, but. Mel didn’t like to lose. And every once in a while, more often than not, he would. You know, tennis rackets were made out of wood. He could break his racket. And it Julian Griffin’s house in the pool house. I hope this is all I get is like every single one of his rackets lined the wall. There was a lot of rackets, although Mel was good at tennis. He got angry every once in a while. You know.

Interviewer: Did you ever go on the sets of.

David DeLuise: Sure. I know me and my brothers went to, you know, History of the World and Ron. Ron Carey was so funny and it was fun, you know. But I was I was young. I was going to my dad’s work, you know? I mean, I still had a good time. But then you’re waiting and like, oh, dad, I see you for five minutes and then he’s back to work, you know? And I I have a great deal of appreciation for the amount of time that my dad actually did spend with me. I have been working now and I have two kids. And, you know, every once in a while you get you get stopped and you’re having dinner with your kids family time. And, you know, you sound rude if you say I’m with my kids, you know, leave me alone. But something my dad did says, what’s your name? Oh, it’s nice to meet you. Want to take a picture? All right. Thanks a lot. You know, I mean, he just made it happen and he made them feel great. You got my Mel and Anne, my godparents. And that was always nice. They always reminded me of that every time I saw them. We’re your godparents were here for you, you know. And we would go to their house in Malibu and they would come to our house. And it was you know, it was. It was like family. And Carl Reiner and Gene Wilder. Gene Wilder once asked me I did a movie called the The Woman in Red and it hasn’t come out yet. And they don’t want me to use that title. So I you know, I’m seven like. What about the lady on the balcony? That’s good. But He didn’t use my thing.

Interviewer: The. You should also mention that you did. I don’t even know how old you would have been that, you know, really, Mel in a way started in the Brooks films because of Fatso to a degree, you know, because Anne was developing it through the women’s film studies program at the American Film Institute. So you thought it should get made and he helped it along that way. But it’s, uh. Would you say it was a departure for your dad? Because I was funny, but it was also drama.

David DeLuise: I feel like comedians can do drama. I think it’s hard for dramatic people to be funny. And I remember the screening of Fatso. Not exact, I think I was like eight. And I was doing my homework in the screening room, like trying to finish my homework, but watching the movie and there’s a part in the movie where Anne. He has eaten forty dollars with the Chinese food to himself, and he’s sitting, looking out the window and and comes in and is like, Why are you doing this? Stop, stop. You know, and she’s like hitting him with this stick. And I just started crying. I was like, Oh. I really do feel like I’ve you know, I think people woke up in the academy when Robin Williams was turning and turning into like a both kind of thing. And Tom Hanks, I think my dad should have been nominated for that film. It was that good? And it really was his life. You know, he struggled with food his whole life. And I think that it was very cathartic for him to kind of go back in and do that movie. My favorite part is where he gets the Anthonys birthday cake. And he eats a piece and then he brings it in and Anne opens it and she freaks out because it’s her son’s birthday and she goes. You ain’t the only you know, and he, you know, go get another cake. Go do it. And he goes and he comes back and he goes. What are you going to do with that cake? And Anne goes this this. Boy she was full of life. Anne Bancroft was one of the funniest women in the world, but also the most classy. You know, she just the way she dressed, the way she carried herself. She was. She’s a great woman.

Interviewer: Did did the film for your dad, did it sort of hit a nerve with him or take. I got it. I mean, the sort of. Make them sit up and take notes.

David DeLuise: Every year, every year, it hit a nerve. You know, my dad struggled with food, you know, so. I think a lot of comedians who are overweight and are successful feel like if they lose the weight, they won’t be as funny. You know, and I always think that was in the back of his mind. You know, some kind of excuse. But the best thing that I could do for him was just eat right and be an example, you know, for that.

Interviewer: I think he should tell us that your dad was on the Dean Martin show and it was actually Annewho said to Mel, you should see this guy.

David DeLuise: Yeah, the Twelve Chairs. My dad was audition for Mel and they had offered Peter Sellers the part and Anne saw my dad on the Dean Martin show and said, you know, Mel, you should look at this guy’s funny. He actually said, I don’t want to watch the Dean Martin show. And then he watched it and he realized that my dad was funny. And he said that if Peter Sellers does the movie, he’ll do the movie and then that’s it. But if you do the movie, we’ll be friends for life. And they were, you know, was it.

Interviewer: I mean, your dad, if Mel called. He’s in. That kind of.

David DeLuise: Yeah. My dad never turned down a part. I mean, there if he turned down something, it was because he was doing something else. You know, he loved to work. He loved to get to know people. You know, if we took a cab to the airport, the 25 minutes that took us to get to the airport, he would know the cabbie’s life story, how his escape from his country and brought his, you know, his kids eventually. And, you know, he just he was fascinated with getting to know people. If he met you, he’d say hi. What did your father do? He was he was a carpenter. Oh, how was that? He just always would find things out. You know, I wanted to tell you that now I. Right after high school, I decided, OK, I’m gonna be an actor. And he gave me a part in Robin Hood Men In Tights. So I didn’t have, you know, an agent or, you know, like people checking it out. Mel said, you’re gonna be in the movie. Here’s your line. Which one means yes? It’s when they’re you know, Cary is asking the crowd, are you with me, yay or nay. We’re all ridiots. And I go. Which one means yes? Well, a couple of weeks went by and he said, don’t shave because you’re a village idiot. So I didn’t shave. And then a month went by and I didn’t shace. I was like, should I shave? I don’t know what to do. Like, you know, I don’t want to call him because he’s making a movie. Well, it was three months before I actually did the film. I had a full beard and. Just the worst thing for an actor to know, you’re one line for three months. Do you know how many times I said that line? So when I got this set, he goes, Do you know your line? And I was I made a joke and I said, no. And he goes, It’s which one means yes. OK. And then. There’s a line where he says lend me your ears. And we all had, like, these dried fruit that looked like years. So, you know, he goes, let me for years. And we pop off the years and throw it at at Cary. And he had a satchel. And one of the one that I threw. Stuck on his satchel. And then. And then the you know, the the continuity girls, like, there was an ear on this thing. And he looked at us and he said, who threw that ear?I didn’t raise my head. I really there was no way he was going to. Now he knows. Oh, goodness. What did I do?

Interviewer: Anything else you’d like to say about him? Because I think we’re good.

David DeLuise: I’ll just say that I appreciate the fact that he. You know, you were talking about the fact that he had a staple of people and I think he was very lucky to have, you know, Gene and and my dad and Marty and I’m and Anne, you know, I I was a very small part of that. And I felt very lucky. And he made me feel lucky and special. Charles Nelson Reilly did a show and he called certain people in your life that are dream droppers that let you see your own potential. And Mel was definitely that person.

Interviewer: That’s great. Thank you so much.

David DeLuise: All right.

Interviewer: Perfect.

David DeLuise | Interview | American Masters | PBS (2024)
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