Yesterday was a sad day because the world became a bit less bright with the passing of Gene Wilder, one of the most influential comedic actors, at age 83 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
The Jewish actor was born as Jerome Silberman and known largely for his roles in “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” and “Young Frankenstein.” Wilder, who has been suffering from Alzheimer’s for three years, apparently passed away while listening to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” according to Wilder’s nephew.
In 2007, Wilder appeared as a guest on Blank on Blank for PBS, where spoke about the surprising way he got into acting–his mother. When he was young, his mother became ill. At the doctor’s request, he told Wilder to “try to make her laugh” as a way to make he feel before. He also advised him not to get angry with your mother, because you might kill her.”
This is when Wilder began to realize he enjoyed making others laugh, and knew he “was successful when I made her run to the bathroom.” Dealing with his mother’s illness is what got him into acting—that he was “free” on stage to do whatever he wanted:
“On stage or in the movies I could do whatever I wanted to. I was free.”
Wilder also went on to say that making his mother happy also have him the confidence and courage to make others happy, stating:
“When you please your mother, it gives you confidence you can please other people.”
Listen to the rest of the interview below (with fun animations!):