Magazine article Tablet Magazine

Bruce Jay Friedman Remembers Gene Wilder of 'Stir Crazy'

Magazine article Tablet Magazine

Bruce Jay Friedman Remembers Gene Wilder of 'Stir Crazy'

Article excerpt

I first met Gene Wilderfor dinnerwhen he was about to fly west and play a lead in a film I'd written called Stir Crazy. He seemed very distraught, to the point of losing consciousness. With the help of the waiter, we revived him and found out what troubled him was that he hadn't the faintest clue as to how to play the character (he was a slavish admirer of my novel Stern and was nervous about making a mistake on something I'd written). After the waiter and I had calmed him down, I said one word: Candide. He immediately brightened and knew how to play the part. Everything's fine, everything's going to be great, it's a Richard Pryor, even though we're in prison for 110 years. Off he went and I didn't see him until the picture was in production.

There's a moment in the film where he's supposed to act crazy in the prison, to get relieved from some duties, and he felt he needed my help, which was preposterous since he woke up in the morning crazy. …

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