Mel Brooks and Max Brooks: Although there are only a mere two letters differentiating their names, the pair has some noticeable differences. One’s the father, one’s the son. One was born in 1926, while the other came into the world nearly 50 years later. One’s long been a legendary icon, whereas the other is fairly lesser-known (although certainly famous in his own right).
Here, we’re going to delve into the compelling life of the latter: the multi-talented only child of comedic actor and director Mel Brooks and the late husky-voiced actress Anne Bancroft. Born as Maximilian Michael Brooks in the Big Apple, this zombie-loving child of Hollywood has crawled out of his parents shadow to carve out his own little corner of the world — mainly, in the competitive and creative world of literature (via IMDb). If you’ve ever wondered how he spent his life in the spotlight, wonder no more: This is the untold truth of Max Brooks.
Max Brooks uses humor to cope with his childhood diagnosis
As a young boy, Max Brooks struggled in school. Speaking to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, he recalls being so frustrated with his inability to complete the work in front of him that he burst into tears. His teacher responded to the sad scene by saying, “You can do it. You just don’t want to.” Brooks’ mother, Anne Bancroft, met with his teachers year after year, attempting to convince them that it wasn’t a matter of “won’t,” but “can’t.” Bancroft later booked him an appointment to get tested for dyslexia, and he ended up checking every single box.
Although the diagnosis brought clarity, it also brought a blow to Brooks’ sense of self-worth. “Once your self-esteem nosedives, I think it’s very rare that it ever comes back to where it was,” he told the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. “No matter what I accomplish, I’m still the kid who had to study for two hours a night, coming in to take an untimed test, praying to God that I pulled off a C.” Eventually, he found a way to bring some levity into the struggle. “My coping mechanism with my dyslexia is to use wit and humor,” he says.
Max Brooks writes about zombies and Big Foot
Max Brooks has always been both a writer and a worrier. When those two traits are combined, it seems you get a best-selling author of zombie thrillers. Speaking to The New York Times, Brooks said, “A zombie story gives people a fictional lens to see the real problems of the world. You can deal with societal breakdown, famine, disease, chaos in the streets, but as long as the catalyst for all of them is zombies, you can still sleep.”
His novel World War Z, for example, uses zombies as a sort of metaphor for the SARS virus. Little did he know, fictional plot lines such as this would become ever-more real come 2020. Brooks thinks the current situation most closely aligns with his book about Big Foot, Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Sasquatch Massacre. Regardless, his expertise in global disasters is more apparent than ever. It even earned him a fellowship at the Modern War Institute at West Point (via The Guardian).
Max Brooks' wife, Michelle, is also a writer
Max Brooks met his lovely and talented wife, Michelle Kholos, while studying for his master’s degree in film studies at American University in Washington, D.C. According to This Stage LA, the two were introduced by a mutual friend whose father once wrote with Mel Brooks. “Michelle and I kept in touch while I was away for six months in Prague studying film,” he said. “After grad school, I came back to L.A. and that’s when we began to date.”
Brooks described the moment he knew Michelle was “the one” as “neurotic Jewish fireworks.” He told Stage LA, “I was sick to my stomach. I just knew this was it, there was no one else and never would be. I panicked. I was tense, nervous.” His nervousness was due, in no small part, to bad past relationships. “I’d dated a lot and they were all so wrong. I’m a weird, different kind of guy. Girls would say, ‘Okay, Mr. Intensity, why do you have to be so intense and analytical?’ I just am. That’s me.”
Although Michelle started her career in journalism and public radio, she later became an esteemed playwright, earning praise from Mel Brooks himself. “Michelle’s a brilliant writer,” Mel Brooks said (via This Stage LA). “I love her work and she grows with every piece she writes.”
Max and Michelle have a son named Henry, who was born in 2005.
Max Brooks has a number of other creative credits
Max Brooks’ childhood penchant for humor took him to great lengths in his adulthood, even earning him an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Program in 2002 for his work on Saturday Night Live (via Entertainment Weekly). He clearly follows in the footsteps of his parents. His mother, Anne Bancroft, won two Emmys in her day: one for the variety show The Women in the Life of a Man in 1970 and another for Deep in My Heart in 1999, per Entertainment Weekly. Moreover, Mel Brooks has a total of four Emmy wins and 13 other nominations (via Emmys).
But according to his IMDb page, Max Brooks is an actor and voiceover star as well as an award-winning author and screenwriter. Although he’s most known in Hollywood as a writer — he wrote the story for the movie The Great Wall and World War Z was based on his novel of the same name — he’s also appeared in a few movies, as well as a handful of TV series. His voice can be heard in Justice League, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, and Batman Beyond.
Max Brooks and his dad, Mel Brooks, created a viral video about social distancing
Back when the COVID-19 pandemic was making its first big waves in March of 2020, Max enlisted his famous father, Mel Brooks, to help make a PSA video. The 50-second clip, which he posted to Twitter, shows Max standing outside while his 93-year-old dad peers at him from behind the safety of a glass door.
He starts the video by saying. “Hi, I’m Max Brooks. I’m 47 years old. This is my dad, Mel Brooks. If I get the coronavirus, I’ll probably be OK. But if I give it to him, he could give it to Carl Reiner [who died June 29, 2020 of natural causes], who could give it to Dick Van Dyke, and before I know it, I’ve wiped out a whole generation of comedic legends.” He then urges his followers to practice social distancing, avoid crowds, wash their hands, and stay home as much as possible. The hilarious video has since garnered more than 16 million views.
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