It seems that Wilder’s first attempt at creating his own project (rather than acting in other people’s) just made him hungry for more. While he was filming the epic “Young Frankenstein,” Wilder started writing a full-length script of an idea he’d had for a romantic musical comedy titled “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother.”
The film became Wilder’s directorial debut and a commercial success, featuring prominent actors of the time, such as Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman. With a budget of $2 million, it made over $20 million at the box office. Not bad for his first time directing!
Wilder Wrote the Start of “Young Frankenstein”
After starring in Woody Allen’s 1972 hit comedy film, Wilder started to write a script of his own — “Young Frankenstein.” After finishing two pages, he called his friend Mel Brooks to ask for his opinion, to which Brooks simply responded, “it’s cute.” He didn't know it at the time but he was about to become a lot more enthusiastic about this script.
The project was left in the air until finally Brooks agreed to do it, seeing as his last two films hadn’t done well commercially. In 1974, “Young Frankenstein” was released, and it was a huge commercial success.
He Almost Didn’t Star in “Blazing Saddles”
When Brooks was filming “Blazing Saddles,” one of his main actors, Dan Dailey, who was meant to play the Waco Kid, suddenly dropped out. Brooks immediately called his old pal Wilder, who was in London at the time about to start filming for a movie adaptation of “The Little Prince.”
Wilder flew back to the U.S., filmed his scenes for “Blazing Saddles,” and returned to England to finish “The Little Prince.” While not many people remember "The Little Prince," Brooks's "Blazing Saddles" became a classic. Can you imagine the legendary comedy film without Wilder in it? Yeah, neither can we.
His First Meeting With Richard Pryor
At the end of 1975, Wilder received a script for a film titled “Super Chief.” Wilder liked the idea but figured the movie was at risk of being misrepresenting the black comminuty, so he said he could star in only if Richard Pryor was cast to make sure the film wasn’t offensive. The demand paid off because he and Pryor ended up making history as Hollywood’s first successful interracial movie comedy duo.
The film was renamed “Silver Streak,” and it became a box-office success, with critics and viewers praising its hilarious storyline. Wilder knew what he was doing, and so did Pryor!
Wilder Wanted to Direct More Films
Wilder could never sit still, as even when he was filming “Silver Streak,” he was working on his next movie. He wrote, produced, and directed “The World’s Greatest Lover,” a comedy film inspired by Federico Fellini’s 1952 film, “The White Sheik.”
Unfortunately, after the film’s release in 1977, it was a commercial failure. Obviously, you can't have each and every one of your projects do well all the time. Not even when you're Gene Wilder. He wasn't the kind of guy to let one flop get him down, and that didn’t stop him from jumping headfirst to the next project.