Mel Brooks is still in “shock” after Gene Wilder’s death.
The 90-year-old actor admits his friend and frequent co-star’s passing due to complications from secret battle with Alzheimer’s disease on Sunday (28.08.16) was “expected”, but he can’t believe his “wonderful” pal will no longer be a part of his life.
He said: “I expected that he would go but when it happens, it’s still tremendous. It’s a big shock. I’m still reeling. No more Gene? … He was such a wonderful part of my life.”
Mel, 90, recalled the early days of his friendship with Gene, who he met when his late wife Anne Bancroft starred in a stage production of ‘Mother Courage and Her Children’ alongside the actor, who played Chaplain.
He told ‘The Tonight Show’ host Jimmy Fallon: “The Chaplain was a great part. But [Gene] said, ‘They always laugh, why are they laughing at me?’ And I said ‘look in the mirror, blame it on God!’ Then we became very good friends.”
Mel and Gene went on to star together in critically-acclaimed 1974 fantasy horror ‘Young Frankenstein’, 1974 cult classic ‘Blazing Saddles’ and ‘The Producers’.
Despite the popularity of ‘The Producers’, Gene was never convinced the production would be given the green light.
Mel recalled his pal sarcastically saying: “You’re doing a play about two Jews, who are producing a flop instead of a hit, knowing they can make more money with a flop and the big number in it is ‘Springtime for Hitler!’ Yeah, you’re going to get the money.”
But funding came through and Gene burst into tears when Mel broke the happy news they would be making the comedy, which was released in 1968.
He said: “He was taking off his make-up, he was in his dressing room. And I took the script and said, ‘Gene, we got the money. We’re going to make the movie. You are Leo Bloom.’ And I threw it on his make-up table and he burst into tears and held his face and cried and then I hugged him and it was a wonderful moment.”