“He was sick, and I knew it. He was such a dear friend,” Brooks said. “I expected it; I expected he would go. But I don’t know. When it happens, it’s still tremendous. It’s a big shock. I’m still reeling from that: no more Gene. I can’t call him. And he was such a wonderful part of my life.”
Brooks recalled first meeting Wilder when the actor was starring in a play, “Mother Courage,” with Brooks’ wife, the late Anne Bancroft. Insecure about not being taken seriously, Wilder asked “Why are they always laughing?” to which Brooks hilariously replied, “Look in the mirror, blame it on God.”
The two worked together for the first time on “The Producers,” a film they weren’t sure would ever get financing (the satirical comedy followed producers developing a musical called “Springtime for Hitler”).
“I took the script, and I said, ‘Gene, we got the money. We’re going to make the movie. You are Leo Bloom,’” Brooks recalled. “He burst into tears and held his face and cried. Then I hugged him. It was a wonderful moment.”
Wilder went on to nab a supporting actor Oscar nomination for the role and starred in two other iconic Brooks films: “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein.”
This marked Brooks’ first televised interview since Wilder died on Monday of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. “One of the truly great talents of our time. He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship,” he tweeted after learning about the death.
|Gene Wilder Life and Career in Photos|