Gene Wilder was an American stage and screen comic actor, screenwriter, film director, and author. Let’s see some amazing facts and trivia about him.
1.His real name was Jerome Silberman.
2. He was born on June 11, 1933 and died at August 28, 2016.
3. He was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
4. Gene Wilder was the son of William J. and Jeanne (Baer) Silberman. His father was a Russian Jewish immigrant, as were his maternal grandparents.
5. He adopted “Gene Wilder” for his professional name at the age of 26, later explaining, “I had always liked Gene because of Thomas Wolfe’s character Eugene Gant in Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River. And I was always a great admirer of Thornton Wilder.”
6. Gene Wilder first became interested in acting at age 8, when his mother was diagnosed with rheumatic fever and the doctor told him to “try and make her laugh.”
7. At the age of 11, he saw his sister, who was studying acting, performing onstage, and was enthralled by the experience.
8. He asked her teacher if he could become his student, and the teacher said that if he were still interested at age 13, he would take Wilder on as a student. The day after Wilder turned 13, he called the teacher, who accepted him and he studied with her for two years.
7. When Jeanne Silberman felt that her son’s potential was not being fully realized in Wisconsin, she sent him to Black-Foxe, a military institute in Hollywood, where he wrote that he was bullied and sexually assaulted, primarily because he was the only Jewish boy in the school.
8. After an unsuccessful short stay at Black-Foxe, Wilder returned home and became increasingly involved with the local theatre community.
9. At age 15, he performed for the first time in front of a paying audience, as Balthasar (Romeo’s manservant) in a production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
10. Gene Wilder graduated from Washington High School in Milwaukee in 1951.
11. Gene Wilder was raised Jewish, but held only the Golden Rule as his philosophy.
12. He described himself as a “Jewish-Buddhist-Atheist” in an interview published in 2005.
13. Gene Wilder studied Communication and Theatre Arts at the University of Iowa, where he was a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity.
14. Following his 1955 graduation from Iowa, he was accepted at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol, England.
15. After six months of studying fencing, Wilder became the first freshman to win the All-School Fencing Championship.
16. Desiring to study Stanislavski’s system, he returned to the U.S., living with his sister and her family in Queens.
17. Gene Wilder’s first professional acting job was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he played the Second Officer in Herbert Berghof’s production of Twelfth Night.
18. He also served as a fencing choreographer.
19. After three years of study with Berghof and Uta Hagen at the HB Studio, Charles Grodin told Wilder about Lee Strasberg’s method acting.
20. Gene Grodin persuaded him to leave the studio and begin studying with Strasberg in his private class.
21. In 1963, Gene Wilder was cast in a leading role in Mother Courage and Her Children, a production starring Anne Bancroft, who introduced Wilder to her boyfriend Mel Brooks.
22. Gene Wilder toured the country with different theatre productions, participated in a televised CBS presentation of Death of a Salesman, and was cast for his first role in a film—a minor role in Arthur Penn’s 1967 Bonnie and Clyde.
23. In 1969, Wilder relocated to Paris, accepting a leading role in Bud Yorkin’s Start the Revolution Without Me, a comedy that took place during the French Revolution.
24. After shooting ended, Wilder returned to New York, where he read the script for Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx and immediately called Sidney Glazier, who produced The Producers. Both men began searching for the perfect director for the film.
25. Jean Renoir was the first candidate, but he would not be able to do the film for at least a year, so British-Indian director Waris Hussein was hired.
26. In 1971, Wilder auditioned to play Willy Wonka in Mel Stuart’s film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
27. After reciting some lines, Wilder prepared to leave the auditioning station, but Mel Stuart (who was a Gene Wilder fan) ran after him, offering the role to Wilder immediately.
28. Gene Wilder was initially hesitant when he learned more on the role, but finally accepted the role under one condition. He said that when he makes his first entrance, he would like to come out of the door carrying a cand and then walk toward the crouwn with a limp. After the crowd sees Willy Wonka is a cripple, they all whisper to themselves and then become deathly quiet. As he walks toward them, his cane sinks into one of the cobblestones, he is walking on and stands straight up, by itself… but he keeps on walking, until he realizes that he no longer has his cane. He starts to fall forward, and just before he hits the ground, he does a beautiful forward somersault and bounce back up, to great applaus.
29. Gene Wilder was married four times.
30. His wife Radner died from cancer. Following her death he became active in promoting cancer awareness and treatment, helping found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and co-founding Gilda’s Club, a support group to raise awareness of cancer that began in New York City and now has branches throughout the country.
31. While preparing for his role as a deaf man in See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Wilder met Karen Webb who was a clinical supervisor for the New York League for the Hard of Hearing. Webb coached him in lip reading. Following Gilda Radner’s death, Wilder and Webb reconnected, and on September 8, 1991, they married.
32. Gene Wilder was a supporter of the Democratic Party, and staunchly opposed U.S. actions in the Vietnam War and the Iraq War.
33.He supported Eugene McCarthy in the 1968 presidential election.
34. He released three novels.
35. Gene Wilder died at the age of 83 on August 28, 2016, at home in Stamford, Connecticut, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.