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Gene Wilder Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (4) | Trade Mark (5) | Trivia (28) | Personal Quotes (13)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 11 June 1933Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Birth NameJerome Silberman
Height 5' 10½" (1.79 m)

Mini Bio (1)

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". Wilder's Actor's Studio connection may have helped him land his first feature, Bonnie and Clyde (1967), in which he drew much favourable 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 Mel 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 & 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 (1972). Wilder re-teamed with Mel Brooks for the inspired lunacy of Blazing Saddles (1974) and Young Frankenstein (1974), earning his second Oscar nomination for his first-time screen-writing efforts (along with Mel 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). His first association with Richard Pryor had come on Blazing Saddles (1974), but Richard Pryor (co-screenwriter) had lost out in his bid for the Cleavon Little role. Richard Pryor and Wilder 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, originally was written to pair him with Richard Pryor again, but Richard Pryor's unavailability necessitated rewriting the part for Gilda Radner.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: q

Spouse (4)

Karen Boyer (8 September 1991 - present)
Gilda Radner (18 September 1984 - 20 May 1989) (her death)
Mary Joan Schutz (27 October 1967 - 24 November 1980) (divorced) (1 child)
Mary Mercier (22 July 1960 - 1965) (divorced)

Trade Mark (5)

Soft mellow voice
Curly brown hair and blue eyes
Frequently plays highly eccentric yet likeable characters
Often worked with Richard Pryor
Frequently works with Mel Brooks

Trivia (28)

Played a man wrongly accused of committing a crime in five movies: Silver Streak (1976), The Frisco Kid (1979), Stir Crazy (1980), Hanky Panky (1982) and See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989).
Starred with Richard Pryor in four movies: Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989) and Another You (1991).
Won the Clarence Derwent award for the Broadway play "The Complaisant Lover" in 1962.
Graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
After his wife Gilda Radner died of ovarian cancer, Gene co-founded Gilda's Club, a support group to raise awareness of the disease.
Was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and is undergoing chemotherapy.
Wife, Karen Boyer, is a former speech pathologist. They first met when he consulted with her about playing the role of a deaf man in See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989).
Is a lifelong brother of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity.
Says he picked the name 'Gene Wilder' because he couldn't see a 'Jerry Silberman' playing Hamlet. He admits now that he can't see 'Gene Wilder' playing Hamlet either.
Made a full recovery from Cancer in 2000.
Uncle of director-screenwriter Jordan Walker-Pearlman.
Campaigned with Elaine May and Renée Taylor for Eugene McCarthy, Allard Lowenstein and Paul O'Dwyer, 1968.
Served with the United States Army from 1956-1958.
Has been a staunch liberal Democrat for many years, and was staunchly against the Vietnam War. He is now against the War in Iraq.
Treated his cancer with an adult stem-cell treatment.
When he chose his stage name, he chose "Wilder" because he loved Thornton Wilder's play "Our Town". The name "Gene" he chose simply because he liked it, not realizing until later it was because his mother's name was Jeanne (she was sick for most of his childhood, and he spent much of his time entertaining her as a kid to keep her happy and her spirits up. He subconsciously chose the name because he loved her so much and in honour of her).
While serving in the United States Army, he was assigned as a Medic to the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Valley Forge General Hospital in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. He worked in treating psychiatric patients.
He claims that before Mel Brooks recruited him, he regarded himself as more of a dramatic than a comedic actor.
His performance as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein ("that's FRONKensteen") in Young Frankenstein (1974) is ranked #9 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
His performance as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) is ranked #38 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
Attended the University of Iowa, as did Ashton Kutcher, Mary Beth Hurt, and Ben Rollins.
He adopted Mary Joan Schutz's daughter, Katharine Anastasia, but became estranged from her when she was in her early twenties.
Served in the Medical Corps section of the United States Army.
Wilder was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Producers (1967) but lost the award to Jack Albertson, who won for The Subject Was Roses (1968). Both Wilder and Albertson would later co-star together in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).
According to his Autobiography "Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art" his cancer is in complete remission. [March 2005]
Release of his debut novel, "My French Whore".
Lives in Stamford, Connecticut. [December 2003]
His father was a Russian Jewish immigrant. His mother was born in Illinois, to David Baer and Sunshine N. Lieber, who were from German Jewish families.

Personal Quotes (13)

[on Mel Brooks] A loud kind of Jewish genius--maybe that's as close as you can get to defining him.
Woody [Woody Allen] makes a movie as if he were lighting 10,000 safety matches to illuminate a city. Each one is a little epiphany: topical, ethnic or political.
[on the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) movie, to the Daily Telegraph] It's all about money. It's just some people sitting around thinking, "How can we make some more money?" Why else would you remake "Willy Wonka" [Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)]?
[about his role in "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex...But Were Afraid to Ask"] And that's not an easy task, being in bed with a sheep, especially if you make the sheep nervous. I'm not going to go on, if you know what I'm talking about.
I'm not so funny. Gilda [Gilda Radner] was funny. I'm funny on camera sometimes. In life, once in a while. Once in a while. But she was funny. She spent more time worrying about being liked than anything else.
[on Mel Brooks] We are not interested in polite titters, we want the audience rolling on the floor and falling about. Mel works on his feet -- it's a hit and miss, hit and miss, hit and miss. Then in the editing he will take out the misses!
[on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), the remake of his Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)] I haven't seen it. I like Depp [Johnny Depp], but when I heard they were doing a remake, I heard, "Mistake". When I saw clips on TV and I saw what Depp was doing, I thought, "Don't see that movie--you like Depp too much". I always get comments: "Yours is better". I know they're talking about "Willie Wonka".
[about his relationship with Richard Pryor] We were never good friends, contrary to popular belief. We turned it on for the camera, then turned it off. He was a pretty unpleasant person to be around during the time we worked together. He was going through his drug problems then and didn't want a friendship outside of what we did on the screen.
[on being asked to play Willy Wonka] I said, "I'd like to come out with a cane, and be crippled," and I said, "because no one will know from that time on whether I'm lying or telling the truth." And he said, "You mean--if we don't do that, you won't do the part?" And I said, "Yeah, that's what I'm saying." [imitates the producer mumbling to himself] "Okay. Okay. We'll do it." And I, and I meant it, too. Because it was a tricky part. But that element, of "who knows? is he lying, or is he telling the truth?" is what my main motor was. And I liked that; it appealed to me a lot.
[on Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)] Well, you know, it wasn't a success when it came out. And I heard some talk about mothers who thought it was cruel to the children. What... what they and everyone else found out later on was that maybe some mothers felt that way, but the children didn't feel that way. The children understood the movie very well. That there are limits. And they want to know the limits. And it's reassuring to know that someone can tell you what the limits are, and that's what Willy Wonka did.
[on his long-time comedic partnership with Richard Pryor] Silver Streak (1976) was very good, we got along really swell. But when we did Stir Crazy (1980), he'd come in 15 minutes late, 30 minutes late, 45 minutes late, an hour late. [Director] Sidney Poitier was going nuts.
[on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)] I think it's an insult. It's probably Warner Brothers' insult. Johnny Depp, I think, is a good actor, but I don't care for that director [Tim Burton]. He's a talented man, but I don't care for him doing stuff like he did.
[on why he doesn't make movies anymore] I like writing books. I'd rather be at home with my wife. I can write, take a break, come out, have a glass of tea, give my wife a kiss, and go back in and write some more. It's not so bad. I am really lucky.

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