10 Things You Didn't Know About Gene Wilder

There's a lot more to Wilder than Wonka.

Gene Wilder Willy Wonka
Paramount Pictures

Gene Wilder was hilarious, there's just no other way to put it. Despite a fairly limited film career - thanks to early retirement and disenfranchisement, the genius writer and performer touched Hollywood with a magic that was almost tangible.

Few will ever touch his brilliantly eccentric and enigmatic performance as Willy Wonka in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory - a definitive character portrayal to say the least - or replicate the chemistry he had onscreen with Richard Pryor. Nor will there ever by another comedic partnership quite like the one between him and director Mel Brooks, which resulted in the unfathomable brilliance of Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.

Even when he wasn't acting, Wilder was creating and performing, bouncing between stage work and writing and even dabbling in watercolour painting. He burned with an urge to create.

Though Wilder's death from Alzheimer's complications came as a shock to the world, what's important is celebrating his life, which was so much more than just a terrific career in film.

Here are ten things you probably didn't know about that beautiful life...

10. He Was Responsible For Willy Wonka's Iconic Entrance

Gene Wilder Willy Wonka
Paramount Pictures

One of the most memorable moments in 1971's Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory is the first appearance of the man himself. Wonka, seemingly frail and leaning on a cane, exits the factory to greet his visitors. After limping towards the crowd he drops his cane, stops and falls forward into a tumble, much to the delight of everyone watching.

It's a fantastic scene, one for which Wilder himself was actually responsible. Before accepting the role as the enigmatic titan of confectionery, Wilder told director Mel Stuart about his idea for the scene.

When questioned as to its relevance, Wilder replied that “Because from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.” It's a comparatively brief moment in the film, but it absolutely lends the character of Wonka a strange sense of mystery, something Wilder clearly realised was important.

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Commonly found reading, sitting firmly in a seat at the cinema (bottle of water and a Freddo bar, please) or listening to the Mountain Goats.