After 60 years of acting and screenwriting, the iconic comedic genius Gene Wilder has passed away at the age of 83, his family announced Monday August 29th.. Loved by many for his role of Willy Wonka inWilly Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Gene was a sensation in Hollywood.
Born on June 11, 1933, as Jerome Silberman, he leaves behind a legendary and illustrious career as a stage and comic actor, a screenwriter, and an author.
At the age of 11, Gene saw his sister studying acting, and he became enthralled with the idea. He asked her teacher if he could study with him, but he was told if he truly wanted to learn, he had to be 13. Sure enough, the day after his 13th birthday, Gene showed up and studied with him for two years.
In the late 1950s, he got his start after being accepted into the Actors Studio. At that time, he felt that “Jerry Silberman in Macbeth” didn’t have a great ring to it, and he chose his stage name Gene Wilder.
Gene accepted the role, under one condition. He said:
“When I make my first entrance, I’d like to come out of the door carrying a cane and then walk toward the crowd with a limp. After the crowd sees Willy Wonka is a cripple, they all whisper to themselves and then become deathly quiet. As I walk toward them, my cane sinks into one of the cobblestones I’m walking on and stands straight up, by itself… but I keep on walking, until I realize that I no longer have my cane. I start to fall forward, and just before I hit the ground, I do a beautiful forward somersault and bounce back up, to great applause.”
After Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory gained a cult following, Gene had a string of unsuccessful movies.
However, being the brilliant creator that he was, he began writing a script for Young Frankenstein. He partnered up with Mel Brooks again, and the film was such a hit, the pair received Best Adapted Screenplay nominations at the 1975 Academy Awards.