Playwright David Henry Hwang Writes on the Passing of Gene Wilder
As BroadwayWorld reported yesterday, Gene Wilder, star of WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY - which will soon grace Broadway in a new musical adaptation - and Mel Brooks films such as THE PRODUCERS, BLAZING SADDLES and YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, passed away from COMPLICATIONS of Alzheimer's disease. He was 83.
Playwright David Henry Hwang, who worked with Wilder briefly in the Early Stages of his play M. Butterfly, just wrote a tribute to the stage and screen legend. Wilder was cast as Rene Gallimard- a role that was later played by John Lithgow after Wilder withdrew from the production.
Hwang writes: "It is fun to speculate how the famously comic Wilder might have interpreted the dramatic role of Rene Gallimard. But when I think of Gene, I am lucky to remember him as more than the brilliant performer who brought the world so much joy. I can think of him, not only as a major actor, not only a comic genius, but also, as a great lover. News of his passing today leaves me very sad. Like so many others, however, I'd like to think that perhaps he and Gilda have finally been reunited."
Wilder was nominated twice for an Oscar: Once for portraying 'Leopold Bloom' opposite Zero Mostel as 'Max Bialystock' in THE PRODUCERS; the second time for co-writing YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN with Brooks.
The actor also won an Emmy Award for his guest role on the TV sitcom "Will & Grace." He also appeared in the 1966 TV version of DEATH OF A SALESMAN, and as 'The Fox' in Stanley Donen's 1974 musical version of THE LITTLE PRINCE.
Onstage, Wilder launched his career in Off-Broadway's ROOTS, and after that, appeared in THE COMPLAISANT LOVER on Broadway. He went on to star in Broadway's MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, THE WHITE HOUSE and LUV.
His and Brooks's musical adaptation of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN hit the stage in 2007.
We'll leave you with his beautiful rendition of "Pure Imagination" from 1971's WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. Rest in peace.