Gene Wilder studied drama at the University of Iowa and then attended the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Wilder taught fencing to support himself while searching for theatre roles and received his first break was in an off Broadway production of "Roots". This led to a Broadway debut in "The Complaisant Lover".
In 1967 Wilder married Mary Joan Schultz and made his Hollywood breakthrough with a small role in Bonnie and Clyde. In 1968 Wilder starred as Leo Bloom in his first Mel Brooks film "The Producers" which helped establish his comic acting skills.
Over the next few years Wilder starred in a number of films but is probably still best known for his 1971 role as Willy Wonka in "Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory", an adaptation of the Roald Dahl children's book.
Two of his finest performances came when he collaborated with Mel Brooks on "Blazing Saddles" in 1973 and "Young Frankenstein" in 1974. As well as taking a cameo role in "The Little Prince", Wilder also completed his divorce from Mary Joan Schutz in 1974, after seven years of marriage and one child.
Wilder made his directorial debut in 1975 with "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother" but it was in 1976 that he first teamed up with Richard Pryor in smash hit "Silver Streak".
The chemistry between them led to them co-starring in another three films; Stir Crazy, See No Evil, Hear No Evil and Another you, making them the most prolific inter racial partnership of the time.
In 1982 Wilder starred in "Hanky Panky" with Gilda Radner as Pryor was unavailable for the role and romance blossomed. The pair married in 1984 and remained married until her death from ovarian cancer in 1989. Her death was said to have devastated Wilder who cofounded Gilda's Club in her memory. Wilder remarried in 1991 to Speech therapist Karen Boyer but remains actively involved in charity work for ovarian cancer.
In 1998 Wilder became known to a whole new audience thanks to his collaboration on the book "Gilda's Disease" for which he shared his personal experiences of his third wife's struggle with ovarian cancer. It was a serious move for Wilder and reaffirmed his dedication to helping both sufferers and supporters of those with ovarian cancer.
Wilder continues to work with voicing a character in hit animation "Over the Hedge" and starring in "Instant Karma" released in 2006.
He released his autobiography "Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art" earlier this year which was widely praised for it's honesty and openness, particularly surrounding the death of his third wife Gilda Radner.
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