Gene Wilder

  1. Steve McQueen, The Magnificent Seven, 1960.    Oh really! When Gene did go West it was for fun,:  Blazing Saddles, 1974; The Frisco Kid, 1979.  “Yul Brynner  wanted me to use a rifle so I wouldn’t outdraw him,” recalled McQueen. “I got three shots out before he even had his gun  out of his holster.”

  2. Dustin Hoffman, The Graduate, 1967.      
    Hoffman kept refusing to test because he felt insulted – he was Jewish, not a WASP.  So was director Mike Nichols, who convinced him with his celebrated zinger. “Well, maybe Benjamin ls Jewish inside.”  Robert Redford insisted he wasn’t right and Nichols agreed. “The public would never believe Redford as a loser with girls.”   Idem for Warren Beatty, Warren Beatty, George Hamilton and Robert Wagner…  Next? Keir Dullea, Charles Grodin (called up for  Nichols in 1969’s Catch 22, 1969), Albert Finney, Harrison Ford, Steve McQueen (!),  David Lynch regular Jack Nance, Jack Nicholson, Anthony Perkins (better as Chaplain Tappman in Catch 22),  Burt Ward (Batman’s Robin but Fox TV wouldn’t let him go), Gene Wilder and the inevitable unknown, Lee Stanley, who went on to be a  docu director. Oh, and Hoffman’s room-mate, Robert Duvall. (Gene Hackman also shared their digs and he was fired from Mr Robinson!). Producer Lawrence Turman said they saw a million kids… Nichols used as many as he could. Mike Farrell (TV’s M*A*S*H) and Kevin Tighe won screen debuts. Richard Dreyfuss, for example, got an actual line – “Shall I get the cops? I’ll get the cops” –   much better than walk-ons for  Brian Avery (in TV until 2018) and Donald F Glut (TV’s Frankenstein  monster in the 50s).  Hoffman got $17,000 and was then jobless and back on welfare for months. Until catching the Midnight Cowboy bus.   

  3. Jon Voight, Catch 22, 1969.    Gene turned down Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder (and director Mike Nichols!), to play twins  in Start the Revolution Without Me, 1970, for director Bud Yorkin.  D’oh!
  4. Red Buttons, The Poseidon Adventure, 1972.    “At midnight on New Year’s Eve, the SS Poseidon, en route from New York to Athens, met with disaster…” Wilder survived by passing James Martin to Buttons… who did not gell with his lady love, Carol Lynley, at all. They only ever exchanged words  for the camera. Well, she was, poor kid, 23 years younger!
  5. Harvey Korman, Blazing Saddles, 1973.The Western send-up’s creator  and star Mel Brooks first asked his 1966 Producers star to play Hedley Lamarr. (He was  praised for his vocabulary: “God darnit, Mr. Lamarr, you use your tongue prettier than a $20 whore.”)  “I’d rather be The Waco Kid,”  said Wilder.   “No. He’s older, like Dan Dailey.” Brooks  even offered The Kid to…  John Wayne.  Who (pause) hadn’t been called Kid (pause) since (pause) Stagecoach in 1938).
  6. Louise Fletcher, The Exorcist II: The Heretic, 1976.
  7. Gene Hackman, Superman,1977.
  8. Dan Akyrod, Trading Places, 1983.    Murphy wanted him gone. And whatever  Eddie wanted…
  9. Guy  Bedos, Il est genial, Papy, France, 1987.    A return to France (where they married in 1984)  proved impossible due to the ill-health of wife Gilda Radner. She died of ovarian cancer two years later.
  10. Robin Williams, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, 1987.    After Sean Connery rejected theKing of the Moon for not being kingly enough, Wilder and Walter Matthau  were considered before Robin agreed to go royal – under the pseudonym of Ray D Tutto.
  11. Bill Irwin, Lady in the Water, 2005.    For his seventh fantasy, director M Night Shyamalan had a list of various top actors- Alec Baldwin, Don Cheadle, Chris Cooper, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William Hurt, Sidney Poitier, etc-for his supportingmale roles, including Irwin’s a bookish weirdo who never leaves his room and rarely speaks except for essential truths.
  12. Mark Rylance, Ready Player One, 2017.   Apparently, two years eartlier, Steven Spielberg had been “courting” Wilder for JD Halliday/Anorak. It would have  been Wilder’s first gig since two guest spots on Will & Grace in 2002-2003. But by now his Alzheimers was too far gone him to ever work again. He died on August 20, 2016, at age 83.



 Birth year: 1933Death year: 2016Other name: Casting Calls:  11