Gene Wilder died on August 29, 2016.
His death still hurts and remains tragic because of the comedic characters he played, most especially Willy Wonka on the silver screen. And what made his portrayal so memorable and beloved by millions of kids and adults alike is that he possessed a very real three-dimensional quality (and bizarre new dimensions that looked other-worldly in some scenes) that was projected through a wacky two-dimensional character written in a book and screenplay.
Like his famed–and sadly fictional chocolate an candy factory–there was always something more there. There was something genuine lingering above the circus-like atmosphere and quintessential ’70s sets.
Back in March 2007, Gene Wilder gave an interview about his life and career. Portions of this conversation were animated into a condensed video series for PBS Digital Studios called “Blank on Blank.”
The reason for posting this interview today of an actor who died in 2016 is the same as why we will spontaneously watch ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ that was released theatrically in 1971:
A random curiosity for wonder and reassurance of this thing in life called pure imagination.
One of the best parts about being an uncle is rewatching my favorite movies from when I was a kid. It involves putting in a DVD I own or one from the local library. The entire experience is nostalgic bliss.
Speaking of which, I just finished watching the 1971 classic film ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ with my niece and mom. Three generations of movie-watchers who differ in cinematic preferences yet this trip down memory lane will always remain one of the all-time greatest films to all who watch it.
Case in point…
That’s what Tuesdays
are all about can be all about.
P.S. The world still misses the kind spirit and pure imagination of Gene Wilder.
Coldplay is really good at playing warm tributes.
In similar fashion to their 2012 tribute to the late Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys during a show at the Hollywood Bowl, Coldplay showed their respect and admiration to the life of the inspirational Gene Wilder at a recent show.
The visual of confetti stars falling to the tune of “Pure Imagination” is a genuinely nice tribute by the band from across the pond. Sometimes, simplicity can speak volumes and this is one of those moments. What’s incredible is that those two words will forever be linked to the late Gene Wilder, bringing a smile to the face of anybody that hears the magical phrase.
As it turns out, any ticket bought to see a Gene Wilder movie was a golden ticket.
One of cinema’s favorite sons, Gene Wilder, died yesterday at the age of 83.
To list a few of Mr. Wilder’s most popular film credits:
- The Producers (1967)
- Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
- Young Frankenstein (1974)
- Blazing Saddles (1974)
- Stir Crazy (1980)
To illustrate the impact of an actor, whose acting portrayals far precede my birth, is a challenging task. How did Gene Wilder forever bring joy and fuel an imaginative engine inside the hearts and minds of children (now adults), especially those of us who did not even experience his cinematic works of comedy until a decade or more after the initial release?
The only explanation I can muster is revealed in bright colors, accompanied by a beautiful song in a scene from the 1971 masterpiece Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. This film not only defined a decade, but flipped the switch on who an adult could be in the eyes of a kid: a childlike dreamer.
If that nostalgic trip down Wonka’s way doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, get your tissues ready.
“There were times we would go out to dinner as a family and children would light up at the sight of him and smile. And because he never lost his instinct or sense or sensibility, it occurred to him that if that disease were made public … that then after that smile, some parent may then say something about disease or sadness. And he was such that he could not bear to be responsible for one less smile in the world.”
–Gene Wilder’s nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman on his uncle’s choice not to reveal he had Alzheimer’s disease.
I’ve said on a few occasions that when I finally have a house with a family, on Halloween, I will dress up like Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka and decorate my house like the Wonka factory, ready to hand out world-altering chocolate and candy.
That was Gene Wilder’s everlasting gift: Pure imagination.
RIP Gene Wilder.