LOS ANGELES: Robert DeNiro and Morgan Freeman were among a host ofHollywoodstars who paid tribute to veteran film maker Mel Brooks at a special dinner. DeNiro and Freeman - who jokingly pointed out they had not been lucky enough to work with the great producer - were among the stars at the American Film Institute’s 41st Life Achievement Awards, held in Los Angeles.

Actor and comedian Martin Short opened the programme with a song-and-dance routine set to a string of melodies from Brooks’ films, which included Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and The Producers. “The word genius is used a lot inHollywood, so I might as well call Mel one,” Short said.

Billy Crystal, Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Cloris Leachman, David Lynch, Larry David and Carl Reiner were at the good-humoured private dinner at the Dolby Theatre for the 86-year-old.

“We are going to miss you so much, Mel,” Kimmel joked. “You were one of the greats. Rest in peace, my friend.” David blamed Brooks for his idle years as an aspiring comedian. “Mel Brooks didn’t get me into comedy, he kept me away from it,” David said, recalling how he was intimidated by Brooks’ talent. “I spent years doing nothing because of him.”–AFP