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1931’s Frankenstein holds a special place in Mel Brooks’ heart. After all, it was a movie that scared him so much as a child that he expected the monster to creep into his room at night.
When Gene Wilder dreamed up the initial idea for Young Frankenstein, Brooks saw the opportunity to have fun while also playing tribute to a masterful piece of cinema. At the crux of the movie though was, of course, the creation.
“I wanted the monster to scare the hell out of the audience and still, in the end, be beautiful and eloquent,” he said.
When the idea of casting Peter Boyle came up, Mel wasn’t sure. He had seen him play dark, as in Joe, but could he play complex too? It was Wilder who believed that he could play scary and sweet.
“Once he was in his monster makeup, Peter’s complexion was mint green, which photographed beautifully in black and white,” Brooks remembers. But it wasn’t just his look that made him the perfect choice.
“Peter was a consummate artist, and the beauty of him came through, his soul shone through.”
Prepping to become the monster was hard work. The make-up took approximately four to five hours to put on and an additional one to two hours to take off – a process that Boyle never complained about.
An inspired and hilarious feature on the monster was the zipper on his neck, an idea that Mel came up with. Interestingly, it also helped avoid any copyright infringement with the 1931 monster.
Of course, the true heart and soul for this monster came from Boyle bringing him to life.
Peter said, “The Frankenstein I play is a baby. He’s big and ugly and scary, but he’s just been born… and it’s been traumatic, and to him the whole world is a brand-new alien environment.”
Along with being a fun, creative endeavor for Boyle, the film also proved to be deeply significant in his personal life. On set, he met his wife, Loraine, who was a journalist writing about the film.