15 Trivia Tidbits About Mel Brooks’ ‘Spaceballs’
The greatest science-fiction film of all time to feature a grotesque pizza monster voiced by Dom DeLuise, Mel Brooks’ Star Wars parody Spaceballs is an undisputed comedy classic. The story of how the heroic/slovenly Lone Starr and his “Mawg” buddy Barf save Druidia’s Princess Vespa from the clutches of the evil Dark Helmet has entertained millions of people over the years and, weirdly, seems to have inspired much of the recent Star Wars franchise.
So to celebrate this asshole-filled film, we’ve collected some Spaceballs trivia. May the Schwartz be with you…
It Was Originally Called ‘The Planet Moron’
Before hitting on the whole “Spaceballs” concept, Brooks’ original title for his Star Wars spoof was the somewhat less-inspired The Planet Moron. The name was eventually changed in order to avoid any confusion with the 1985 U.K. comedy Morons From Outer Space, in which “a trio of moronic aliens crash-land on Earth and become celebrities.”
Mel Brooks Made a Deal With George Lucas: No Merchandising
Brooks sought Star Wars creator George Lucas’ approval before making the film, and Lucas was oddly cool with the parody, but he had one condition for Brooks: There could be no Spaceballs merchandise. According to Brooks, Lucas told him: “You can’t do merchandising. You can’t actually have, you know, a Dark Helmet action figure because they’ll look too much like ours.”
Some of the Fake ‘Spaceballs’ Products Were Just Repurposed ‘Transformers’ Merch
Brooks adhered to Lucas’ caveat but took the opportunity to ridicule the Lucas empire’s excessive merchandising in the iconic scene in which the Yoda stand-in Yogurt hawks products ranging from Spaceballs: The Lunch Box to Spaceballs: The Flame-Thrower. Since there were no actual Spaceballs toys to speak of, the production seemingly repurposed some Transformers gear. Hence why Spaceballs: The Coloring Book features not Lone Starr, but Optimus Prime.
The Novelization Was Written by R.L. Stine
The one piece of official merchandise we did get was a novelization by Jovial Bob Stine, later known as R.L. Stine. As far as we know, it was a straight-up adaptation of the film; he didn’t, say, add in any haunted masks or talking ventriloquist dummies.
The Studio Wanted Tom Hanks or Tom Cruise to Play Lone Starr
Brooks cast relative unknown Bill Pullman in the lead role of Lone Starr after seeing him in the play Barabbas. The studio, on the other hand, wanted a major star for the part. As Brooks recounted, “They wanted Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks — anybody named Tom who cost $2 million,” adding, “That’s what’s wrong with this business. If you make a ‘Tom’ movie, it’s no longer a parody; it’s a ‘Tom’ movie.”
Pullman Didn’t See ‘Star Wars’ Before Making ‘Spaceballs’
In 2017, Pullman revealed that he didn’t see the original Star Wars prior to filming and didn’t feel he needed to. Pullman said of Star Wars, “I missed it the first time around. I just needed Mel to tell me what was going on. I didn’t need to see Star Wars to know what the whole thing was.”
Brooks ‘Nearly Died’ Because of His Yogurt Makeup
Rather than just hire Jim Henson to throw together a Yoda-like puppet, Brooks played the role of Yogurt himself, which required being slathered in gold paint — and proved to be a big mistake. The makeup gave Brooks a “life-threatening rash” after he was assured that it was “non-toxic.” Brooks later laughed off the ordeal: “I’m supposed to chalk it up to show business, but I nearly died.”
John Hurt Agreed to Make a Cameo Because of ‘The Elephant Man’
The end of Spaceballs found Hurt restaging his iconic Alien death — this time due to some sketchy diner food, not a parasitic sex monster. Brooks was able to convince Hurt to take part after producing The Elephant Man, for which Hurt was nominated for an Oscar.
There’s a Terrible Animated Sequel Series
While Spaceballs II: The Search for More Money never got made, we did get a follow-up in cartoon form with Spaceballs: The Animated Series, which was aggressively bad, culminating in an American Idol parody for some reason.
A ‘Spaceballs’ Billboard Was Rediscovered in 2018
An original Spaceballs billboard was hidden from public view for decades in Toronto but was inadvertently re-discovered in 2018 to the joy of the entire city. While it remained visible for some time, it has, sadly, since been covered up.
We Were Robbed of a ‘Spaceballs’ LEGO Set
A fan submitted plans for a Spaceballs LEGO set to the company’s “Ideas” page. While the set, depicting Lone Starr’s flying Winnebago, received the minimum 10,000 votes required to warrant the company’s consideration, LEGO ultimately opted not to mass produce any Spaceballs merch — possibly out of respect for Brooks’ promise to George Lucas.
King Roland’s Castle Was on Actual Currency
The castle used for the establishing shot of Druidia is actually Neuschwanstein Castle, a 19th-century palace located in Southern Bavaria, which was later immortalized on a 2 Euro coin (due to its historical and architectural significance, not its association with Spaceballs).
The ‘We Ain’t Found Shit’ Guy Was a Future’ Star Trek’ Star
The Spaceball trooper with a comb who memorably shouts, “We ain’t found shit!” was played by none other than Tim Russ, who went on to star in another famous space-based project — he played Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager.
Rick Moranis Improvised the Doll Scene (With a Fever No Less)
One of the hands-down funniest scenes of the movie is when Dark Helmet is playing erotic games with his Spaceballs action figures (which, again, definitely don’t exist) only to be interrupted by Col. Sanders. The dialogue — including “Your helmet is so big!” — was totally improvised by Rick Moranis, who was sick with a fever at the time. “I wasn’t at the top of my game,” Moranis later said, “but somehow was able to come up with that.”
It Was Filmed on the Same Soundstage as ‘The Wizard of Oz’
The moment where our heroes meet Yogurt for the first time is, obviously, an homage to The Wizard of Oz:
And, oddly enough, much of Spaceballs, including the interior of Lone Starr’s Winnebago, was filmed in Studio 15 at MGM, where they made The Wizard of Oz. “Sometimes when I was directing, I would imagine seeing Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Bert Lahr all cavorting around the same stage,” Brooks said.
It is unclear if the Schwartz was ever with them.
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