Remembering Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder, born Jerome Silberman, passed away on August 29, 2016 but he leaves behind an incredible legacy on film.

Blazing Saddles

Gene Wilder was a last-minute replacement for the Waco Kid when the intended actor showed up drunk on the first day of filming. Mel Brooks shut down the set and Wilder was on the next plane out – Gene had already expressed interest in the role but Brooks thought he was too young, even offering the part to Johnny Carson, who turned it down (John Wayne also turned down a role, but insisted he’d be first in line to see it.)

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Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factor

After rtumblr_m74pfxOh5l1rw5yn2o4_250eading the script, Gene Wilder wanted the role under one condition: that he would be allowed to limp, then suddenly somersault in the scene when he first meets the children. When director Mel Stuart asked why, he replied that having Wonka do this meant that “from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.” The director asked, “If I say no, you won’t do the picture?” to which Gene replied “I’m afraid that’s the truth.”

There was no one else for the role. According to Mel Stuart, when Gene Wilder walked into the boat_wonkaaudition, he has the part before he even spoke a word. Stuart immediately chased him down the hallway, cut him off at the elevator bank, grabbed his arm and told him “You’re doing this picture, no two ways about it! You are Willy Wonka!” Sorry, Johnny Depp.

 

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When Willy Wonka is seen drinking from a flower-shaped cup, send Gene Wilder a salute. Though the chocolate river was made from real chocolate and cream (which began to spoil and smell awfully bad), the cup is only made of wax, so Gene would have to chew and spit for every take.

Young Frankenstein

Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder began writing Young Frankenstein on the set of Blazing Saddles. Wilder has always said it’s his favourite of all his films.

Wilder wrote the bit with “Puttin’ on the Ritz” and Mel Brooks hated it, thought it didn’t go withtumblr_n56j6eHHVd1qzk2apo2_500 the rest of the vintage horror theme. Wilder has stated he defended the scene”close to rage and tears” and argued for the scene before Brooks stopped him and said, “It’s in!”. When Wilder asked why he had changed his mind, Brooks said that since Wilder had fought for it so hard, it must be the right thing to do. Only when audiences howled in laughter, however, was Brooks finally convinced.

giphy (1)Gene thought his script was so funny he ruined numerous takes giggling through scenes, much to Cloris Leachman’s annoyance. But according to Wilder, that’s what he and Brooks were always after: “We are not interested in polite titters, we want the audience rolling on the floor and falling about. Mel works on his feet — it’s a hit and miss, hit and miss, hit and miss. Then in the editing he will take out the misses!”

Gene Wilder was married to SNL funny lady Gilda Radner, until her death due to cancer in 1989.

Of her he said “I’m not so funny. Gilda was funny. I’m funny on camera sometimes. In life, once in a while. Once in a while. But she was funny. She spent more time worrying about being liked than anything else.” Gene and Gilda starred in 3 movies together- the first, Hanky Panky, was originally slated to co-star Richard Pryor but when he was forced to back out, the part was rewritten for her.

Gene Wilder consulted a speech pathologist for another movie he actually did do with Richard 525-2Pryor (one of many) called See No Evil, Hear No Evil. He liked the pathologist so much he married her, and they remained married until his death.

Gene’s list of credits goes on and on; truly a talented man worth remembering.

 

 

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27 thoughts on “Remembering Gene Wilder

  1. ninvoid99

    Fuck you 2016. I’m even sadder now. Yesterday, Mr. Fuji died as well as Juan Gabriel (a favorite of my grandmother) and now Gene Wilder. He is always be Willy Wonka to me as well as the Waco Kid and Dr. Fronkensteen. I also love his part in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) as the story of him falling in love with a goat is just hilarious. Anything he did with Gilda and Pryor are great. He will truly be missed.

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  2. Birgit

    I was shocked to hear of his passing and also shocked to find out he had Alzheimer’s. I really hate that disease and all forms of dementia. I loved him in these movies but also include Silver Streak, The Producers and his small bit in Bonnie and Clyde. Another great film he starred in with Donald Sutherlnd was Start The Revolution Without Me….a brilliant comedic film.

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  3. In My Cluttered Attic

    Sherlock’s Smarter Brother was every bit Mr. Fronkensteen and the Waco Kid. But, Gene Wilder was and always will be, Willy Wonka. As forn real life Mr. Wilder was a gentle soul who was a genuinely kind man and every bit the gentleman with whomever he came into contact. When he retired from acting to take up writing full-time he really did feel it was time to walk away from being a thespian, and he left a wonderful legacy of comedy. Real human-beings are always impossible to replace. Thank god for film.

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  4. kmSalvatore

    He did have the best eyes. and His humor … well as you might remember i wasn’t line when God was handing out funny bones…but this guy always cracked me up,a real talent He was,may he rest in Peace with Gilda

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  5. Christopher

    Young Frankenstein was one of my favorite films before I even saw it. It was given a special nod in a book about Hollywood monsters because it was so true to the originals, even using some of the same lab equipment from the 1931 film.
    It was a true ensemble piece but Wilder was the heart of it.

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  6. J.

    Great post, Jay. So many great moments that I got lost down the rabbit hole of YouTube when I read the news. It’s often said at times like these, but Wilder truly was a remarkable chap.

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  7. ruth

    It’s been a terrible year w/ another legend leaving us 😦 I remember him the most from The Woman in Red, saw that as a wee girl and it was so hilarious!

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