Remembering Gene Wilder

Paige Pope, Contributing Writer

On Aug. 29 we all had to say goodbye to a man that had a big impact on every kid’s childhood. Gene Wilder known for his iconic role as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory tragically passed away due to complications with Alzheimer’s disease. Although the younger generations may only know him as the man who made us all wish we won a golden ticket, Gene Wilder had a long and versatile career. Gene Wilder’s career started with him being on the stage before being in front of the camera. His film debut was in 1967 in the motion picture Bonnie and Clyde.

A year later in 1968 he went on to play a huge role in the film Producers which not only got him nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor but the film was also the first to multiple collaborations and a great friendship with Mel Brooks. The pair worked on other films together such as Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Brooks and Wilder’s friendship lasted decades. In a recent interview the 90 year old writer/director did after Wilder’s passing he said that he knew that his friend was ill and not doing good.

“I expected he would go, but when it happens it’s still tremendous. It’s a big shock,” he told Jimmy Fallon on the “Tonight Show” the night after Wilder’s death. “I’m still reeling from that — no more Gene. I can’t call him,” Brooks added. “He was such a wonderful part of my life.”

Wilder also formed a work relationship with Richard Pryor. They starred in four movies together and were among Hollywood’s most successful interracial comedy duo and are given credit for playing a part of breaking racial boundaries on film. The first two movies they starred in together were huge commercial successes and grossed well over 150 million at the box office.

Along with being an actor Wilder was also a screenwriter, director and author. He wrote several novels and books, he even wrote and directed some of his own films including The Woman in Red in 1984. Gene Wilder always known as being a great person is also praised for his active involvement in promoting cancer awareness and treatment. Although it’s very hard to say goodbye, we should celebrate all of Wilder’s great accomplishments and thank him for his amazing contributions to our childhood.