Something Wilder

When it comes to unique actors, Gene Wilder is among the elite cream of the crop. More than just the man who brought Willy Wonka to life, Wilder imbued each of his characters with a distinct brand of zaniness.

As Dr. "Frahnk-in-steen"
As Dr. “Frahnk-in-steen”
With beginnings as a stage actor, Wilder transitioned into film with his debut TV movie version of Death of a Salesman. Like Marilyn Manson after him, Wilder adopted his stage name (his real moniker being Jerome Silberman) based on two things he loved: Eugene Gant from Thomas Wolfe’s Of Time and the River and the novelist/playwright Thornton Wilder. A fortuitous meeting with Mel Brooks (thanks to Anne Bancroft) in 1963’s production of Mother Courage and Her Children led Wilder to subsequent works that would become among his most iconic (including Young Frankenstein).
With his wife, Gilda Radner
With his wife, Gilda Radner
The 1970s was perhaps Wilder’s most prosperous decade–in spite of numerous box office flops he would incur. In addition to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Young Frankenstein, Wilder also had a role in Woody Allen’s successful Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *(But Were Afraid to Ask).
Wilder was reluctant to work with Richard Pryor on Stir Crazy
Wilder was reluctant to work with Richard Pryor on Stir Crazy
With the advent of the 80s came Wilder’s beloved collaboration with Ricard Pryor on the film Stir Crazy. Although Wilder was hesitant to work with Pryor due to his drug addiction, the movie went on to become a comedy classic. The decade continued favorably for Wilder when he met his wife, Gilda Radner, in 1982. The luck of the 80s, however, seemed to vanish in the 90s, as Wilder failed to gain traction with any of his projects. His last appearance was on Will & Grace in 2003, for which he received an Emmy in the role of Will Truman’s boss. Regardless of this tacit retirement, Wilder remains a true gem amid an ever-dying style of comedic acting.