We are very excited to announce we will confer Doctorate of Fine Arts degrees honoris causa upon American comedy icon Mel Brooks and celebrated surrealist David Lynch for “contribution of distinction to the art of the moving image” during AFI Conservatory commencement 2012 at Hollywood’s landmark Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Both artists worked together on the Academy Award winning THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980), with Lynch as director and screenwriter and Brooks as executive producer.
Previous recipients of the AFI Honorary Degree include Robert Altman, Maya Angelou, Clint Eastwood, Roger Ebert, James Earl Jones, Nora Ephron, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Kathleen Kennedy, John Lasseter, Spike Lee, Helen Mirren, Haskell Wexler and John Williams.
Mel Brooks is only one of 14 people who has won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and a Tony Award, and his artistry ranges from writing, directing and producing to acting and composing. Brooks got his start as a writer on YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS in 1950, and later joined forces with Buck Henry in 1965 to create the hit television series GET SMART. Brooks’ first venture into film was as a voice actor in THE CRITIC (1963), which won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film. He again won the Oscar, for Best Original Screenplay, for his first feature, THE PRODUCERS (1968). Brooks is known for his comedy films including BLAZING SADDLES (1974), YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974), SILENT MOVIE (1976), HIGH ANXIETY (1977), HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART 1 (1981), TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1983), SPACEBALLS (1987), LIFE STINKS (1991), ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS (1993) and DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT (1995). His films have been recognized by the American Film Institute as among the funniest American movies of all time, with three films in the top 15 of AFI’s 100 Years…100 Laughs list; BLAZING SADDLES ranked #6, THE PRODUCERS ranked #11 and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN ranked #13.
Director, screenwriter, visual artist, composer/musical artist and AFI Conservatory alumnus David Lynch (AFI Class of 1970) is known for his darker, dreamlike explorations of American life. In 1977, his debut, ERASERHEAD, which began as his thesis film while attending AFI Conservatory, premiered at Filmex, the precursor to the American Film Institute’s AFI FEST. Since then, the award-winning filmmaker has continued to craft some of the world’s most immersive noir dreamscapes, gaining mainstream success and a reputation as an innovator. His film works range from sci-fi to crime-drama and include DUNE (1984), BLUE VELVET (1986), TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME (1992), LOST HIGHWAY (1997), THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999), MULHOLLAND DR. (2001) and INLAND EMPIRE (2006). BLUE VELVET has been honored by AFI as one of the greatest mysteries of all time and as one of America’s most heart-pounding movies in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Thrills. Also, Frank Booth from BLUE VELVET was ranked among the greatest villains of all time on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains list.
Among the premier theaters in Los Angeles, 2012 marks the first AFI Commencement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, which opened in 1927. For the past three years, Grauman’s Chinese has been the exhibition home to AFI Fest, the American Film Institute’s annual celebration of excellence in global cinema, with Hollywood Boulevard lighting up over eight consecutive nights each November with red carpet premieres and screenings.