The world is still mourning the passing of comedy legend Gene Wilder who died this past Sunday at his home due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Many celebrities have already paid their respects to the late star of such films as “Young Frankenstein,” “Blazing Saddles,” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” but last night on “The Tonight Show,” director Mel Brooks gave a special tribute to his longtime friend and star of many of his films. “He was such a dear friend and I expected it, I expected he would go,” Brooks said, “But I dunno, when it happens, it’s still tremendous. It’s still a big shock. I’m still reeling from that ‘No more Gene’ and I can’t call him…He was such a wonderful part of my life.” Watch it below.
In the interview, Brooks tells the story of when he first met Wilder, who was performing on stage with Brooks’ late wife Anne Bancroft in a production of “Mother Courage.” Wilder played the serious role of The Chaplain, but he kept getting laughs from the audience. “He said, ‘They always laugh, why are they laughing at me?’ And I said, ‘Look in the mirror, blame it on God!'”
Brooks also tells the story of how he cast Wilder in his debut feature film “The Producers,” and how he promised Wilder that he would play accountant Leo Bloom, but Wilder didn’t believe Brooks would ever acquire the money. Once the money was acquired, Brooks told Wilder the good news and he reportedly burst into tears. “It was a wonderful moment,” Brooks recounts.
Wilder is survived by his wife Karen Webb and the rest of their family.