Here’s What Mel Brooks Had to Say About His Friend’s Passing in ‘Remembering Gene Wilder’

Here’s What Mel Brooks Had to Say About His Friend’s Passing in ‘Remembering Gene Wilder’

At 97 years old, Mel Brooks has outlived a great many of his friends and contemporaries, but the comedy legend still feels the loss of a certain Waco Kid.

Throughout his historic 44-year acting career, Gene Wilder only appeared in a total of three movies directed by Brooks, but all three became instant classics upon release and are still considered some of the finest comedies of all time. Between The ProducersBlazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, Brooks and Wilder’s shared filmography shaped the future of humor in film like few other actor/director combos ever could, and, today, nearly seven years after Wilder passed away following an extended battle with Alzheimer’s disease, their behind-the-scenes and post-credits relationship remains an important piece of film history.

Wilder’s life is the subject of a recent documentary titled Remembering Gene Wilder, which includes interviews with those who stayed closest to the comedy icon during his decline at the end of his life. Brooks shares many memories of his friend and collaborator in the film, and he offers some touching, devastating thoughts about Wilder’s struggle with and eventual death from Alzheimer’s. In Remembering Gene Wilder, Brooks said that he “was inconsolable for a couple of weeks” following his friend’s passing, saying of the film giant, “When he lived his life, he lived it, loud and eloquently. He was an outstanding actor and also an outstanding person.”

I called him a lot thinking, ‘Maybe if I gave him enough references I could get him out of it,’ Brooks says of his interactions with Wilder in the mid-2010s as the latter’s health declined with the advancement of Alzheimer’s dementia. Insanity (on) my part. He was in the throes of that terrible disease. We could never talk too long after he got it. It was so sad, it made me cry a lot, Brooks recalled.

Said Brooks of Wilder’s lasting impact on his life, “I miss his enjoying my humor — I could make him laugh where he would sometimes grab his belly, hit the ground and roll around on the ground and laugh.” Brooks opined, “That’s the real payment in being a comic, and boy, he paid.

Other Hollywood greats who shared their stories of the giant in Remembering Gene Wilder include Alan Alda, Carol Kane, Harry Connick Jr., Mike Medavoy, Rain Pryor, Dick Cavett, Eric McCormack, Ben Mankiewicz and Peter Ostrum. The film is now playing in select theaters.


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