PBS Digital Studios’ Blank on Blank is highlighting a “lost interview” with Gene Wilder. He was interviewed by Letty Cottin Pogrebin in March of 2007.
In this segment of the interview, which PBS Digital Studios has animated, Wilder talks about Mel Brooks, his mother, and Willy Wonka.
“I was miscast in my first big part on broadway,” he says. “One night after a show, there was Mel Brooks wearing a merchant marine pea jacket. He looked striking in it. I said, ‘Hello, hello. How nice to meet you. My goodness, you look so wonderful in that pea jacket,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, they used to call them urine jackets but they didn’t sell.'”
He then shares some memories about making his ill mother laugh followed by an anecdote about making Willy Wonka.
He tells the interviewer, “I was offered the part of Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and when the director came to my house, I said, ‘Well, I like the script except when the audience sees Willy Wonka for the first time, I want to come out of a door with a cane, and limp my way to the crowd, and they’re all like, “Willy Wonka, he’s a cripple…oh my god, who thought…” and they quiet down, quiet down, quiet down, then Willy Wonka’s cane gets stuck in a brick, and he starts to fall forward, and he does a forward somersault, and jumps up, and the crowd cheers and applauds,’ and the director said, ‘What do you want to do that for?’ and I said, ‘Because from that time on, no one will know whether I’m lying or telling the truth.’ He said, ‘You mean if I say no, you won’t do the picture?’ I said, ‘I’m afraid that’s the truth.’
Here’s the full interview:
Image via YouTube