Gene Wilder was not a fan of interviews, but in 2013, he sat down with Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne to discuss his career at 92nd Street Y in New York City. It turned out to be the Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory actor’s last interview. His death was announced on Monday. He was 83 years old and died from complications of Alzheeimer’s.
One of the highlights of the 30-minute interview was Wilder’s thoughts on Tim Burton’s 2005 film Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, a different adaptation of the Roald Dahl book that starred Johnny Depp as Wonka. Wilder dubbed the film an “insult,” but didn’t blame Depp.
“I think it’s an insult. It’s probably Warner Bros.’ insult,” Wilder said. “Johnny Depp, I think, is a good actor, but I don’t care for that director. He’s a talented man, but I don’t care for him doing stuff like he did.”
Wilder’s final film turned out to be 1991’s Another You with his frequent co-star Richard Pryor. Wilder continued to act on television, but he stayed away from Hollywood for the rest of his life. In his interview with Osborne, he made it clear that he yearned for the days when comedies didn’t have include curses.
After a while, [films] were so dirty. Once in awhile, there was a nice, good film, but not very many. If something comes along and it’s really good and I think I’d be good for it, I’d be happy to do it. Not too many came along. I mean, they came along, but I didn’t want to do them. I didn’t want to do 3D, for instance. I didn’t want to do ones that were just bombing and swearing. If someone says ‘Ah, go f*ck yourself,’ if it came from a meaningful place, I’d understand it. But if you go to some movies, can’t they just stop and talk once in awhile?
The interview also included an anecdote about his famous first scene in Willy Wonka.
I thought the script was very good, but something was missing. I wanted to come out with a cane, come down slowly, have it stick into one of the bricks, get up, fall over, roll around, and they all laugh and applaud. The director asked, ‘what do you want to do that for?’ I said from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.