Mel Brooks Shares His Emotional Response to Gene Wilder’s Alzheimer’s Diagnosis


  • Mel Brooks tried to help Gene Wilder through Alzheimer’s, but realized it wasn’t possible.
  • Wilder’s death in 2016 left both Brooks and fans mourning the loss of a comic legend.
  • Brooks and Wilder created timeless classics like
    Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles
    , and
    The Producers.

Mel Brooks collaborated many times with his good friend Gene Wilder, and the legendary director has recently recalled his reaction to Wilder’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and how he was compelled to try and help him out of it.

The new documentary Remembering Gene Wilder sees many of Wilder’s collaborators, family, and friends coming together to celebrate the life of one of Hollywood’s greatest comic talents. Along with the actor’s widow, Karen Boyer, and stars such as Alan Alda, Harry Connick Jr., Brooks shares his personal thoughts on his friendship with Wilder, and how the actor’s failing health took a huge toll on him.

Young Frankenstein

Release Date
December 15, 1974


20th Century Fox

The scariest comedy of all time!

Following Wilder’s diagnosis, Brooks initially believed that he would potentially cure the star by reminding him about the things he was starting to forget. However, the director soon realized that this was not the case.

“I called him a lot thinking, ‘Maybe if I gave him enough references I could get him out of it.’ Insanity [on] my part. He was in the throes of that terrible disease. We could never talk too long after he got it. It was so sad, it made me cry a lot. I was inconsolable for a couple of weeks [after Wilder’s death.] When he lived his life he lived it, loud and eloquently. He was an outstanding actor and also an outstanding person. I miss his enjoying my humor — I could make him laugh where he would sometimes grab his belly, hit the ground and roll around on the ground and laugh. That’s the real payment in being a comic, and boy, he paid.”

Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks Made Some Comedy Classics

Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder Blazing Saddles
Warner Bros

Wilder’s death in 2016 at the age of 83 did not only hit Brooks hard, but also the legion of fans that had grown up with the actor’s impressive resume of classic movies. Along with the likes of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask), and Stir Crazy, Wilder’s best movies were arguably those directed by Brooks.

Blazing Saddles, The Producers, and the impeccable horror parody Young Frankenstein delivered Wilder his best reviewed movies, and left behind a comedy legacy that is hard to rival. Despite these movies all being made in the ‘60s and ‘70s – Young Frankenstein turns 50 this year – the quality of the productions, the physical humor and wordplay, and the flawless performances of the cast make their collaborations timeless pieces of cinema that continue to deliver laughs to new generations.


The Producers: Still One of the Best Comedy Movies Ever Made

The original Mel Brooks film The Producers was a huge flop in 1968, but has since established a place in film history as one of the greatest comedies.

Remembering Gene Wilder began its limited release in cinemas on March 15, and will move to streaming and other home media on April 30, 2024. Check out the synopsis and trailer for the documentary below.

“This loving tribute to Gene Wilder celebrates his life and legacy as the comic genius behind an extraordinary string of film roles, from his first collaboration with Mel Brooks in The Producers, to the enigmatic title role in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, to his inspired on-screen partnership with Richard Pryor in movies like Silver Streak. It is illustrated by a bevy of touching and hilarious clips and outtakes, never-before-seen home movies, narration from Wilder’s audiobook memoir, and interviews with a roster of brilliant friends and collaborators like Mel Brooks, Alan Alda, and Carol Kane. Remembering Gene Wilder shines a light on an essential performer, writer, director, and all-around mensch.”


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