Mel Brooks Calls Gene Wilder’s Death ‘A Big Shock,’ Remembers Their First Meeting
Mel Brooks, who was a close friend and collaborator of Gene Wilder’s, can’t believe that the iconic actor is gone.
Mel Brooks On Gene Wilder
Earlier this week, Brooks made an appearance on The Tonight Show, where he talked to host Jimmy Fallon about Wilder’s passing. “He was sick, and I knew it. And he was such a dear friend. I expected that he would go, but when it happens, it’s still tremendous. It’s a big shock,” Brooks told Fallon. “I’m still reeling from … no more Gene. I can’t call him. He was such a wonderful part of my life.”
Brooks went on to recount in detail the first time he met Wilder back in 1963, when the actor was working with Brooks’ late wife Anne Bancroft on Broadway in Mother Courage and Her Children.
“He came backstage, and I got to know him a little bit. The chaplain is a great part – it’s sad and funny. It’s touching, and it can be amusing. So he said, ‘Why are they always laughing at me?’ I said, ‘Look in the mirror – blame it on God,'” Brooks remembered. “We became very good friends, and I told him about Leo Bloom in the thing I was writing called The Producers. And I said, ‘Look, I’m promising you: When we get the money, you are gonna be Leo Bloom.'”
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Brooks added, “[Gene] said, ‘Oh yeah, when you get the money. You’re doing a play about two Jews who are producing a flop instead of a hit, knowing they can make more money with a flop. And the big number in it is ‘Springtime for Hitler.’ Yeah, you’re gonna get the money!'”
A couple of years down the road, Brooks did get the money.
“He was taking off his make-up in his dressing room,” Brooks told Fallon. “I took the script, and I said, ‘Gene, we got the money. We’re gonna make the movie. You are Leo Bloom.’ And I threw it on his make-up table. And he burst into tears and held his face and cried. And then I hugged him. It was a wonderful moment.”
Wilder would go on to work with Brooks again on Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.
Wilder died in August at his home in Stamford, Connecticut, from complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83.
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