Gene Wilder - Details


Comedic actor Gene Wilder caught his first big break playing a small role in the off-Broadway production of Arnold Wesker's "Roots" and followed quickly with his Broadway debut as the comic valet in "The Complaisant Lover" (both 1961), for which he won the Clement Derwent Award. His other Broadway credits included "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1963, with Kirk Douglas), "The White House" (1964, with 'Helen Hayes' ), and "Luv" (1966), but it was a 1963 Broadway production of "Mother Courage and Her Children" that altered the course of his life forever. In its cast was Anne Bancroft, who was dating Mel Brooks at the time, and the relationship established between the two men eventually led to Wilder's becoming part of Brooks' "stock company." His Actor's Studio connection may have helped him land his first feature, Bonnie and Clyde (1967), in which he drew much favorable attention in a small but memorable role as a frightened young undertaker abducted by the legendary duo. Wilder's performance as the endearingly frantic Leo Bloom in _Producers, The (1967)_ kicked off his celebrated collaboration with Brooks and garnered him an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor. His career gained momentum as he played a swashbuckler in _Start the Revolution without Me (1970)_ , the candy impresario of _Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)_ and a sheep-smitten doctor in ‘Woody Allen’ (qv)’s _Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex (1972)_ .

Wilder reteamed with Brooks for the inspired lunacy of Blazing Saddles (1974) and Young Frankenstein (1974), earning his second Oscar nomination for his first-time screenwriting efforts (along with Brooks) on the latter. Spurred by these triumphs, Wilder made his directorial debut (in addition to acting and starring) with Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother, The (1975). His first association with ‘Richard Pryor’ (qv) had come on Blazing Saddles, but Pryor (co-screenwriter) had lost out in his bid for the Cleavon Little role. The two first acted together in the highly entertaining and commercially successful Silver Streak (1976) and scored at the box office again with Stir Crazy (1980), but their later efforts were mediocre. Ironically, Hanky Panky (1982), Wilder's first of three films with his late wife ‘Gilda Radner’ (qv), would have paired him with Pryor, but Pryor's unavailability necessitated rewriting the part for Radner.


  • 11th June 1935 - Birth