Creator / Gene Wilder

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"We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dreams."

"A little nonsense, now and then, is relished by the wisest men."

Jerome Silberman, better known as Gene Wilder (June 11, 1933 August 29, 2016), was widely regarded as one of the greatest comedic actors of the 20th century, if not the greatest. He was best known for being the first actor to portray Willy Wonka (see right), for his collaborations with Mel Brooks, and for his four co-starring appearances with Richard Pryor.

Wilder met and fell in love with Saturday Night Live original cast member Gilda Radner on the set of the movie Hanky Panky (1982). They wed in 1984 and appeared together again in the films The Woman In Red and Haunted Honeymoon. Radner died following a long battle with ovarian cancer in 1989, after which Wilder established the Gilda Radner Ovarian Detection Center at Cedars-Sinai Hospital.

Wilder essentially retired from acting around the Turn of the Millennium (save for a couple of guest appearances on Will & Grace in 2003), and afterwards he devoted himself to writing. He died in 2016 at the age of 83 from complications with Alzheimer's disease.


Partial filmography:


This actor's work provides examples of:

  • The Cast Show Off: Any time he could sneak some swordplay into a film, rest assured, he would. Wilder was a champion fencer in college. He also sang in a number of films.
  • Chewing the Scenery: A consummate master of this trope.
  • Executive Meddling: invoked In 1999 he did two television mystery movies for A&E, Murder in a Small Town and The Lady in Question. Both got high ratings and critical praise, some even saying that his character, Larry "Cash" Carter, was the next Columbo. However, A&E ownership changed hands and they informed him there would be no more Cash Carter mysteries, leaving Wilder bitterly angry and causing him to retire completely from acting.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: With Richard Pryor. They were not as chummy as they appeared in the films, mostly owing to Wilder's intolerance of Pryor's cocaine addiction.
  • Friend to All Children: He adored the way children's eyes lit up when they recognized him as Willy Wonka. And he kept the fact that he was suffering from Alzheimer's Disease for his final three years secret because, as he put it, he didn't want to take their smiles away.
  • Funny Character, Boring Actor: invokedIn contrast to his loud, over-the-top onscreen performances, Wilder was a very shy and quiet man in real life.
  • Horsing Around: Ineptly in The Woman in Red, surprisingly well in Stir Crazy.
  • Large Ham: In films such as in The Producers, where he goes in a outburst ("I'M HYSTERICAL!"/ "I'M WET!"/"I'M IN PAIN!")
  • Leslie Nielsen Syndrome: Prior to The Producers, Wilder worked in theater as a dramatic actor. He vented to Mel Brooks one night that everyone was laughing at his performances when they weren't meant to, to which Brooks replied "Look in the mirror and blame God."
  • Playing Against Type: invoked
    • His role as Wonka went completely opposite the roles he had (until then) been most famous for, as those previous roles were all in films most especially not appropriate for children.
    • In another way, Silver Streak was this. Up until that point, Wilder almost exclusively played eccentrics or neurotics. Wonka falls in the "eccentric" category. His character in Silver Streak, George Caldwell, is a well adjusted book publisher who enjoys gardening and isn't particularly strange. He is thrown into a series of events that are more bizarre than his character. Perhaps the first time that ever happened with Wilder.
  • Production Posse: invoked Famously with Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor. Less famously so with Dom De Luise and Madeline Kahn.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: He had a love of romance novels and even wrote two himself, My French Whore and The Woman Who Wouldn't as well as a collection of short romantic stories called What Is This Thing Called Love?
  • Reclusive Artist: invoked Rarely gave interviews at the height of his popularity and gave even fewer afterward. Also, went out of his way to say just how much he hates actually promoting a film to the extent that it caused him to pass on a lot of projects.
  • Stage Names: He was born as Jerome Silberman.
  • Star-Derailing Role: invoked Haunted Honeymoon. Everything after that flop was bad news for Wilder until a minor comeback on television, which was also derailed by the above mentioned Executive Meddling.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Had a tendency to get very loud at a moment's notice throughout many of his works. As Willy Wonka, he famously didn't tell the other actors how loud he was going to get during the film's climax, leading to more genuinely shocked responses (though he did ask for Peter Ostrum to be warned in advance when filming the infamous "You get nothing!" scene due to the friendship the two had built up over the course of filming; his request was denied).
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Despite making several films alongside Richard Pryor, Wilder and Pryor weren't that chummy.
  • Wag the Director: During filming of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, he had full control over nearly every aspect of his performance as the titular candyman, from the clothes he wore to the way he introduced himself at the start of the factory tour. By all accounts, his contributions were not so outlandish that it made production difficult and some of the film's most memorable moments were his ideas.
  • What Could Have Been: invoked. After semi-retiring from acting in 1999, he passed on many, many roles that had been conceived for him.
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