Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder Headshot

Actor • Writer • Comedian

Birth Date: June 11, 1933

Death Date: August 29, 2016

Birth Place: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Spouses: Gilda Radner

Comedic actor Gene Wilder caught his first big break playing a small roll 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, Arthur Penn's "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 "The Producers" (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 Bud Yorkin's "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's "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex* (* but were afraid to ask)" (197). But the hilarity was just beginning, Wilder reteamed with Brooks for the inspired lunacy of "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein" (both 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 "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" (1975), featuring actors from the Brooks' troupe like Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman and Dom DeLuise. His first association with Richard Pryor 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 "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" (1989) and "Another You" (1991) were less successful, the final film particularly marred by Pryor's all-too-apparent real-life health problems.

Ironically, "Hanky Panky" (1982), Wilder's first of three films with his wife Gilda Radner, would have paired him with Pryor, but Pryor's unavailability necessitated rewriting the part for Radner. Wilder went on to star in "The Woman in Red" (1984), a broad remake of the French farce "Pardon Mon Affaire." After Radner's 1991 death from cancer, Wilder starred in the short-lived NBC sitcom "Something Wilder" (1994-95) and made his London stage debut in Neil Simon's "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" in 1996.

Battling health issues, Wilder went into retirement, with his final screen role coming in a pair of episodes of the sitcom "Will and Grace" (NBC 1998-2006) in 2002 and 2003. Wilder began a second career as an author with the 2005 memoir Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art, followed by a short story collection and three novels. Gene Wilder died of complications from Alzheimer's Disease in Stamford, Connecticut on August 29, 2016. He was 83.

Credits

DR2 Tema

Actor
Leo Bloom
Show
2012

An Evening With Gene Wilder

Host
Show
2012

Expo: Magic of the White City

Narrator
Show
2005

Alice in Wonderland

Voice
Mock Turtle
Show
1999

Alice in WonderlandStream

Actor
Mock Turtle
Movie
1999
33%

Murder in a Small Town

Actor
Cash Carter
Movie
1999

The Lady in Question

Actor
Larry "Cash" Carter
Movie
1999

The Lady in Question

Writer (Screenplay)
Movie
1999

Will & GraceStream

Guest Star
Mr. Stein
Series
1998

The ViewStream

Guest
Talk
1997

Something Wilder

Actor
Gene Bergman
Show
1994

Inside the Actors Studio

Guest
Talk
1994

Another You

Actor
George/Abe Fielding
Movie
1991

Funny About Love

Actor
Duffy Bergman
Movie
1990

See No Evil, Hear No EvilStream

Actor
Dave Lyons
Movie
1989
27%

See No Evil, Hear No EvilStream

Screenwriter
Movie
1989
27%

Haunted Honeymoon

Actor
Larry Abbot
Movie
1986

Haunted Honeymoon

Director
Movie
1986

Larry King Live

Actor
Talk
1985

The Woman in RedStream

Actor
Teddy Pierce
Movie
1984
32%

The Woman in RedStream

Director
Movie
1984
32%

The Woman in RedStream

Screenwriter
Movie
1984
32%

Baryshnikov in Hollywood

Self
Movie
1982

Hanky Panky

Actor
Michael Jordon
Movie
1982

Sunday Lovers

Actor
Skippy
Movie
1981

Sunday Lovers

Director
Movie
1981

Sunday Lovers

Screenwriter
Movie
1981

Stir CrazyStream

Actor
Skip Donahue
Movie
1980
69%

The Frisco KidStream

Actor
Avram
Movie
1979
54%

The World's Greatest Lover

Actor
Rudy Valentine/Rudy Hickman
Movie
1977

The World's Greatest Lover

Director
Movie
1977

The World's Greatest Lover

Producer
Movie
1977

The World's Greatest Lover

Screenwriter
Movie
1977

Lørdagshjørnet

Guest
Show
1976

Silver StreakStream

Actor
George Caldwell
Movie
1976
76%

The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother

Actor
Sigerson Holmes
Movie
1975

The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother

Director
Movie
1975

The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother

Screenwriter
Movie
1975

Blazing SaddlesStream

Actor
Jim: The Waco Kid
Movie
1974
88%

Thursday's Game

Actor
Harry Evers
Movie
1974

RhinocerosStream

Actor
Stanley
Movie
1974

The Little PrinceStream

Actor
The Fox
Movie
1974

Young Frankenstein

Actor
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein
Movie
1974
94%

Young Frankenstein

Screenwriter
Movie
1974
94%

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)Stream

Actor
Dr. Doug Ross
Movie
1972
88%

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate FactoryStream

Actor
Willy Wonka
Movie
1971
91%

Start the Revolution Without Me

Actor
Claude/Philippe
Movie
1970

Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx

Actor
Quackser Fortune
Movie
1970

The Dick Cavett ShowStream

Guest
Talk
1968

The ProducersStream

Actor
Leo Bloom
Movie
1968
91%

Bonnie and ClydeStream

Actor
Eugene Grizzard
Movie
1967
90%

Death of a Salesman

Actor
Bernard
Movie
1966