After Gene Wilder’s passing on Sunday at age 83, memories and tributes from all around the world surfaced from industry members and fans alike. People in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s recalled what his movies meant to them – whether their favorite was Blazing Saddles or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or even his brief appearance in Bonnie and Clyde. But the people who have the best memories about Wilder and his career are of course those who shared the screen or time on set with the comedic master.
Mel Brooks, who made many films with Wilder, already tweeted about the actor’s passing. Now Peter Ostrum, who portrayed Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is sharing behind-the-scenes memories from one of his only movie roles as a young child.
Most of the stories are probably as many people imagine Gene on set, happy and friendly yet intensely committed to his work. As told to The Hollywood Reporter, Ostrum says that Gene “treated me with respect, like a fellow actor ” on set and “expected me to be professional, which I thought that I was…he was a great teacher.” Just thinking about interacting with Wilder on set is an amazing thing to contemplate. Especially the filming of one of the most famous Wonka scenes: the first time Wonka exits his factory. Ostrum describes it as such,
“We had no idea that he was going to do that. How he came up with that idea and passed it along to Mel Stuart, our director, that was between those two. But you’re seeing a genuine reaction.”
As far as the infamous boat scene? A little less magical, but still great apparently.
“Gene just kind of went off and we had not seen that side of him. I wouldn’t say it was disturbing — but it was, ‘Whoa, Gene is really getting into it today.'”
Ostrum spells it out as plainly as possible when he gives his overall opinion of Wilder. It’s a sentiment that many of the actor’s fans probably agree with, especially those who wish they could have had the opportunity to work with him as well:
“He was an icon for our generation…and a very humble man.”
(via The Hollywood Reporter)