Gene Wilder starred in the original 1971 “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” but he only did so under one condition.
“When I make my first entrance, I’d like to come out of the door carrying a cane and then walk toward the crowd with a limp,” he said, according to Letters of Note. “After the crowd sees Willy Wonka is a cripple, they all whisper to themselves and then become deathly quiet. As I walk toward them, my cane sinks into one of the cobblestones I’m walking on and stands straight up, by itself; but I keep on walking, until I realize that I no longer have my cane. I start to fall forward, and just before I hit the ground, I do a beautiful forward somersault and bounce back up, to great applause.”
When asked why, he responded, “Because from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.”
As we know now, his request was granted, and that one scene is now one of the most memorable in the film.
The actor, also known for his role in “Blazing Saddles” and “The Producers,” died Monday at the age of 83, due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
According to a statement from Wilder’s nephew, Wilder died as a recording of Ella Fitzgerald singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” — one of his favorite songs — played in the background.
Despite his often wild and over-the-top roles, Wilder was known to be a very quiet and reserved man off screen. In his free time, he enjoyed watercolor painting and published six books, including a memoir entitled “Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art.”
Watch the scene above for a refresher on how Wilder introduced Willy Wonka to the world.