300_254671I recently had the great honor to interview Gene Wilder. He was in Atlanta to visit his wife, Karen Webb’s, grown-up children who had moved South to work for Turner.

Wilder is an original — quite possibly the most unique comic actor of his time. He was pummeled by Zero Mostel in “The Producers,” kidnapped by Warren Beatty in “Bonnie and Clyde,” rode West (in Rabbinical whiskers) with Harrison Ford in “The Frisco Kid,“ played Donald Sutherland’s mismatched twin in “Start the Revolution Without Me” (a great 4th of July choice even if it is about the French Revolution) and brought Peter Boyle to life in “Young Frankenstein.”

A gentle man with a quiet (and decidedly quirky) sense of humor, Wilder is also a born story-teller. One of his favorites is how he agreed to play the title role in  “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

Wilder insisted he make his entrance hobbling on a cane. Then he seems to lose control of it, falls forward and executes a perfect somersault. “After that,” he explained to the aghast fillmakers, ”no one will ever know if I’m telling the truth or not.”

Now in his mid-70s, Wilder has turned his attention to writing and has produced an exquisite pair of novels, almost Chekhovian in their astutely humorous observation of human nature. One is “My French Whore,” set during World War I; the other is “The Woman Who Wouldn’t,” which takes place at a turn-of-the-century sanitarium where one of the other patients is … Anton Chekhov.

Both read like screenplays for a Gene Wilder movie. Which is to say, they are very good reads.

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Eleanor Ringel Cater

Eleanor Ringel Cater

Eleanor Ringel Cater, long-time movie critic for The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, also has been a regular contributor to CNN, MSNBC, Entertainment Weekly, Headline News and WXIA, Atlanta's NBC affiliate, and a columnist for TV Guide.

6 Comments
  1. Terri Evans

    So glad you shared this! So envious you got to hang with Gene Wilder. I’d love to read his books, and hope that they will indeed be screenplays someday.

  2. Cliff Green

    I’m also a Wilder fan. Where and when will the complete interview be published?

  3. Chris Wohlwend

    I recently re-watched The Producers and was reminded what a great coming together of talents that was — Brooks, Mostel and Wilder. (Not to mention one of the great wild men of all time, Dick Shawn). I second Cliff’s question — where and when?

  4. One of those guys you coudn’t look at without laughing. Modern comedy requires mass marketing – he didn’t.

  5. Loved your comments. Love Gene Wilder. Am jealous you had a chance to talk with him.

  6. I’ve been waiting years to meet Gene. He did a book signing in Houston for “Whore” but I was out of the country. One of, if not my favorite actor ever. I have almost every movie he was in. Thanks for sharing. Would love to read the interview!

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