James Corden paid tribute to the late iconic comedic actor Gene Wilder on The Late Late Show Monday night — and recalled the moment when Wilder rejected an offer to appear on his show.

James Corden Pays Tribute To Gene Wilder

Wilder, most known for his legendary role as Willy Wonka in the classic comedy Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory died on Sunday at the age of 83, following complications from Alzheimer’s Disease.

“He [Wilder] was never anything less than brilliant at all times,” Corden praised. “I was lucky enough to meet him once, he came to see me in a play in New York.”

Corden explained that the entire cast was amazed and terrified of Wilder’s presence in the audience, but even more excited when he came backstage after the play.

“He sat in my room for half an hour and we sat on this couch and I’ll never forget it as long as I live,” Corden said. “All he really wanted to talk about was how my wife and son were adjusting in New York… It was amazing and we exchanged emails.”

Corden revealed that when he got the Late Show and was planning to air the first show — it opened with a Willy Wonka sketch.

“I sent him an email asking if he’d come and do a bit in it,” Corden remarked. “He sent me an email back and in the history of people saying no to things, it couldn’t have been nicer.”

Corden read aloud the rejection email Wilder sent him, adding that, “even the way he said no was so poetic, even his emails sounded somehow like Willy Wonka.”

“He was just this magical person,” the host concluded.

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