When Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks partnered up, there was no stopping them. They were like a comedy machine. The American Film Institute compiled a list of the 100 funniest films of all time, and four of them were directed by Mel Brooks and starred Gene Wilder. The actor’s unique comedic talent catapulted Brooks’ most famous films to the top of the Hollywood ladder.
Wilder’s performances in “The Producers,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein,” and “Silver Streak” set the standard for many future comedy actors. If it weren’t for him, these films wouldn’t have achieved the cult status they have today.
He Won an Emmy for His Role on “Will & Grace”
If you were a fan of the 90’s comedy sitcom “Will & Grace,” then you surely remember Mr. Stein, Will Truman’s boss. He was portrayed by none other than our beloved Wilder back in 1997, and it was fantastic.
In fact, even though Wilder only appeared as a guest actor for two episodes, he won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. Sadly, though, this was the last time Wilder appeared on screen, as shortly after, he decided to retire and focus on writing and painting. That's right — among the man's many talents there's painting too.
Wilder Described Himself as a Jewish-Buddhist-Atheist
Despite growing up in a conservative Jewish family, as the years passed, Wilder described himself as a “Jewish-Buddhist-Atheist.” The description itself sounds like one of his comedy skits, but he truly believed in a combination of the three doctrines. While it sounds like the expression contradicts itself, if you stop and think for a second, you come to realize there is some kind of sense to it.
Throughout his life, he always said that the only rule he truly followed was The Golden Rule, which states, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” A pretty good rule to live by.
Wilder's Fourth Wife
When Wilder was getting into character and preparing to portray a deaf patient in “See No Evil, Hear No Evil,” he received lip-reading coaching sessions at the New York League for the Hard of Hearing. His coach was the clinical supervisor of the center, Karen Webb. He had no idea at the time, but Webb was about to become a very important person in his life in just two short years.
After Gilda Radner passed away, Wilder and Karen began speaking again and slowly developed an intimate friendship that evolved into a romantic relationship. They tied the knot in September 1991.
Wilder Struggled With Cancer
After losing both his mother and his wife Gilda Radner to cancer, Wilder found himself facing a similar diagnosis, this time, himself being the patient. In 1999, years after he’d left showbusiness, Wilder was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma and was hospitalized for treatment. He and his wife Karen kept the situation under wraps as best as they could.
After five years of invasive treatments and, ultimately, a stem cell transplant, Wilder gave a public statement confirming his cancer was in total remission. Wilder dedicated his time to watercolor painting, aiding charity organizations, and writing novels. In 2005, he released a very personal memoir titled “Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art.”