10 Facts You Did Not Know About Gene Wilder

Project Casting

Here’s 10 things you did not know about Gene Wilder.

Gene Wilder was born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Jeanne (Baer) and William J. Silberman, who manufactured miniature whiskey and beer bottles. His father was a Russian Jewish immigrant, while his Illinois-born mother was of Russian Jewish descent.

Wilder’s first role was in a small off-Broadway production of “Roots” and he quickly moved up the ranks with his Broadway debut as the comic valet in The Complaisant Lover. He also was featured in several Broadway shows including One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The White House and Luv. 

But, it was a 1964 Broadway production of Mother Courage and Her Children that changed his life. According to IMDB, in its cast was Anne Bancroft, who was dating Mel Brooks at the time, and the relationship established between the two men eventually led to Wilder’s becoming part of Brooks’ “stock company” and was featured in several Mel Brooks’s productions. He would land his first feature film in Bonnie and Clyde which led to several award winning productions including an an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor in the movie The Producers.

In addition to Bonnie and Clyde, Wilder was known around the world for his role as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Sadly, Wilder passed away on Monday at the age of 63. In memory of the great actor, here are 10 things you did not know about Gene Wilder.

10 things you did not know about Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder

10. Played a man wrongly accused of committing a crime in five different movies

9. Starred with Richard Pryor in four movies

8. After his wife Gilda Radner died of ovarian cancer, Gene co-founded Gilda’s Club, a support group to raise awareness of the disease.

7. Was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and made a full recovery in 2000

6. While serving in the United States Army, he was assigned as a Medic to the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Valley Forge General Hospital in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. He worked in treating psychiatric patients.

5. Gene Wilder is not his real name. It’s Jerome Silberman.

4. He considered himself as more of a dramatic than a comedic actor.

3. Attended the University of Iowa the same school as did Ashton Kutcher.

2. Wife, Karen Boyer, is a former speech pathologist. They first met when he consulted with her about playing the role of a deaf man in See No Evil, Hear No Evil

1. He is a fraternity brother of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity.

Gene Wilder

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