‘Unlike Some Other Robin Hoods, I Can Speak With An English Accent’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About Mel Brooks’ ‘Robin Hood: Men in Tights’
Mel Brooks has never been one to shy away from satirizing whatever pop culture deems, well, popular, so it made sense to take a shot at a character that Disney has cashed in on a number of different ways. However, what often gets overlooked is that Robin Hood: Men in Tights was not Brooks’ first foray into the world of the famous English fella who hates the rich as much as the next guy. Read on to learn all about it, and find out how we might never have had this classic comedy if it weren’t for a ’90s tween…
Not Brooks’ First Robin Hood
Best known for his slate of satirical films, Brooks dabbled in a bit of television, too. He co-created When Things Were Rotten, a 1975 ABC series that satirized Robin Hood. Dick Van Patten, who plays The Abbot in Men in Tights, played Friar Tuck in the Brooks series.
Cary Elwes Hung Up on Brooks
Elwes was sure he was being pranked when Brooks called him to offer him the lead role. “He called me up out of the blue, and I thought someone was putting me on,” Elwes remembers. “I thought it was someone doing a great Mel Books impression. And he said, ‘This is Mel Brooks.’ I said, ‘Uh-huh. Sure.’ And I hung up on him. I thought it was Jim Carrey messing with me. And then, when he called back, he said, ‘Don’t hang up! It’s really me! I want you for Robin Hood. We’ll cast the film together.’”
When 11-year-old Jordi Chandler saw the 1991 Kevin Costner movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, he told his dad that it was so bad it should be parodied. His dad, Evan Chandler, was a Hollywood dentist who told as much to his client and screenwriter, J. David Shapiro. Together with Chandler, Shapiro and Brooks wrote the movie where Elwes directly references Kevin Costner’s terrible English accent.
Yes, That Evan Chandler
In a different life, the dentist might’ve been known as the teeth guy who ended up doing a movie with Mel Brooks. Instead, his name on Wikipedia redirects you to what he’s really famous for: Making the first allegations against pop star Michael Jackson. Sadly, Chandler’s life would end up taking a very different, very tragic turn.
Almost Starring Sean Connery in Drag
After making a brief appearance as King Richard in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Connery wanted to bring old Dickie back — only this time in drag. Connery reportedly told Brooks he wanted $1 million for the role and that he planned on donating it all to a bunch of Scottish charities, but Brooks
didn’t buy it couldn’t afford it, and ended up casting Patrick Stewart, who, we assume, didn’t demand to play the King as a cross-dresser simply for the LOLs.
The Merry Men Bootcamp
Even though the plot was all fun and games, the cast had to attend a swordplay boot camp to prepare for the fight scenes. “The actors came in every weekend, and they worked Saturdays and Sundays just on their sword fights,” Brooks said in the HBO making-of documentary Robin Hood: Men in Tights: The Legend Had It Coming. Their fencing coordinator, the late Victor Paul, did stunt work on Die Hard, Mars Attacks! and Armageddon.
Trained by the Man Who Trained Robin Hood
Paul, who did a lot of coordinated stunt work throughout his career, also trained Errol Flynn, the actor who iconically portrayed Robin Hood in 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood.
Elwes Helped Discover Dave Chappelle
Elwes told Brooks he wanted to help cast Robin’s sidekick, Achoo. “We saw a lot of actors and when Dave came in, he was just so amazing,” Elwes remembers about meeting the largely unknown comedian for the first time. “We knew right then and there, this guy was a star.”
A Breakout Star
Chappelle was only 19 when he starred in Men in Tights, his first feature film. He was an instant hit — so much so that Time ended up replacing a review of the film with a profile of the breakout star instead. Chappelle, in true form, was more interested in the issue’s cover story about white kids shooting each other than his first magazine profile. “Did you see that issue of Time magazine? Black kids have been doing that for years,” he said during an interview, fuming. “But if a white kid shoots the side of a building, it makes the cover. This country was founded on racism, and it is all still there.”
Richard Lewis Refused to Ride a Horse
In an interview with the legendary Bobbie Wygant, Lewis said that he only agreed to play Prince John — mole, tight pants and all — because Brooks promised he wouldn’t have to ride a horse. Lewis, apparently, has an equine phobia.
Tracey Ullman said that Brooks allowed her to do her thing and improvise for her character, Latrine, including the joke in the Roger Rees scene where she says, “I touched it.” “He went, ‘I like that,’” she told PBS.
Richard Lewis Got Pretty Sick During Filming
“I was almost done with the film,” Lewis told The Wall Street Journal. “I had one scene left, (and then) I got Hepatitis A.” Lewis was hospitalized with a 106-degree fever, but according to the comedian, Brooks kept wanting to smuggle him out of the hospital so they could film his last two lines.
Almost Starring Madeline Kahn
The iconic actress who starred in many Brooks films, including Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and History of the World, Part 1, turned down the role of Latrine in Men in Tights. According to some, the money wasn’t enough. According to Brooks, the part itself “was simply not enough.”
Step Aside, ‘The Princess Bride’
A Real Bull’s-Eye
Robin’s bull’s-eye was not only real, but Elwes was pretty proud of himself since he doesn’t count archery as one of his strengths. “I was quite proud of the fact that I got a bull’s-eye shooting the bow and arrow because there was a lot of pressure from Mel to get that in a few takes,” Elwes once explained. “He said ‘Okay, you’ve got three takes. Get a bull’s-eye, let’s go!’ And I’m like, ‘Really, Mel? I’ve only got three? Really?’ And I got it on the third one, thank god.”