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Gene Wilder

  • Birthplace: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Birthday: June 11
Date of passing: 
August 29, 2016

Gene Wilder was a performer, writer and director perhaps best known for his role as the title character in the cult classic film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and for his frequent work with writer-director Mel Brooks, including 1974’s Blazing Saddles. The comedy legend also appeared in Brooks’ Young Frankenstein — which he helped write — as well as The Producers, which earned Wilder his first Academy Award nomination. His second came for cowriting Frankenstein.

Later in his career, Wilder appeared on the popular NBC comedy Will & Grace, playing Mr. Stein, the quirky boss of Will Truman, played by Eric McCormack. The role earned him an Emmy Award in 2003, for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series.

Wilder, who was born Jerome Silberman, got his start on Broadway and earned his first television credits with parts on such series as Play of the Week, Armstrong Circle Theatre and The DuPont Show of the Week. He also appeared on the legal drama The Defenders and, years later, the children's program Yo Gabba Gabba! In the mid-1990s, he starred in his own short-lived NBC comedy, Something Wilder, about a husband and wife learning to cope with raising twin boys.

Gene Wilder was a performer, writer and director perhaps best known for his role as the title character in the cult classic film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and for his frequent work with writer-director Mel Brooks, including 1974’s Blazing Saddles. The comedy legend also appeared in Brooks’ Young Frankenstein — which he helped write — as well as The Producers, which earned Wilder his first Academy Award nomination. His second came for cowriting Frankenstein.

Later in his career, Wilder appeared on the popular NBC comedy Will & Grace, playing Mr. Stein, the quirky boss of Will Truman, played by Eric McCormack. The role earned him an Emmy Award in 2003, for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series.

Wilder, who was born Jerome Silberman, got his start on Broadway and earned his first television credits with parts on such series as Play of the Week, Armstrong Circle Theatre and The DuPont Show of the Week. He also appeared on the legal drama The Defenders and, years later, the children's program Yo Gabba Gabba! In the mid-1990s, he starred in his own short-lived NBC comedy, Something Wilder, about a husband and wife learning to cope with raising twin boys.

He made his movie debut with a small but memorable role in the 1967 classic Bonnie and Clyde, starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, and went on to appear in Woody Allen’s 1972 release Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex... as well as The World’s Greatest Lover, with Carol Kane and Dom DeLuise; The Frisco Kid, opposite Harrison Ford; and Hanky Panky and Haunted Honeymoon, both co-starring Gilda Radner, to whom he was married from 1984 until her passing from cancer in 1989.

In 1975, Wilder wrote, directed and starred in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, also starring Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman. The following year, he starred opposite comedy great Richard Pryor in the action comedy Silver Streak, and went on to appear with Pryor again in 1980’s Stir Crazy, 1989’s See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Wilder’s final film performance, 1991’s Another You.

Additionally, he made several telefilms, including a 1966 TV adaptation of Death of a Salesman. He later appeared opposite Blythe Danner in The Scarecrow, appeared in an anthology of sketches called Acts of Love and Other Comedies, and starred with Bob Newhart in Thursday’s Game. In 1999, Wilder was seen in three made-for-television movies: Murder in a Small Town, The Lady in Question and an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, with Martin Short, Ben Kingsley and Whoopi Goldberg.

He spent his later years writing novels, including The Woman Who Wouldn’t and What Is This Thing Called Love?

Wilder died August 29, 2016, in Stamford, Connecticut. He was 83.

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AWARDS & NOMINATIONS

1 Wins1 Nominations