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Gene Wilder’s Wild Ride Examined in New Documentary

Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. Photo: Wiki Commons.

It’s amazing to think that Gene Wilder almost didn’t get the role of Leo Bloom in The Producers, which kickstarted his illustrious film career. Born Jerome Silberman, Wilder would go on to film buddy movies with Richard Pryor, and star as Rabbi Avram Belinsky alongside Harrison Ford in The Frisco Kid.

The splendid new documentary Remembering Gene Wilder, showcases the star as an innocent type, with a sudden rage that could come out in his characters. We hear his voice through audio book recordings, and learn that while playing Willy Wonka, he would do unexpected things that were not rehearsed to surprise the actors. We hear from the child actor (now an adult) named Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie. Ostrum says that Wilder helped him by not telling him how he was going to play the scene where Charlie goes to Wonka’s office to collect his prize.

We also hear about Mel Brooks’ The Producers. For example, in the famous scene at the water fountain at Lincoln Center, the person controlling the water had it shoot up higher than usual. In the film, Bloom agrees to a scheme to defraud investors in a play, because he wants his life to be like things are in the movies. And after that role, of course, Wilder’s life became magical.

“That’s why we put that scene in,” director Ron Frank told me in an interview.

Frank said he was happy get the chance to interview Brooks, and that among Brooks’ important stories is that distributor and producer Joe Levine didn’t want Wilder in the film.

There’s also a hilarious scene from Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, in which Wilder falls in love with a sheep.

“There’s a great scene where he is just quiet, but it was too long to put in the film,” Frank said. “I really don’t think any other actor could have done what he did in the film and be so believable.”

Frank said The Frisco Kid was among his favorites of Wilder’s screen work. In that comedy, Wilder plays Polish Rabbi Avram Belinski who treks through the Old West to lead a synagogue in San Francisco. It’s a buddy film, and Harrison Ford got the role that was supposed to go to John Wayne, but for whatever reason, a producer tried to get Wayne to take a $250,000 pay cut and he refused.

It was not often that audiences saw a rabbi in a leading role.

“I think it was important to see not only that he was kind and that he believed in justice, but even when he shot one of the villains in self-defense, he thought he might not be worthy to marry the daughter,” Frank said.

The documentary deals with tragedy in how Wilder fell in love with and married Gilda Radner, who died of cancer. Some of the rage he showed as an actor could also stem from the fact that he was told that if he talked back to his mother, it could kill her. A welcome surprise in the documentary is Harry Connick, Jr., who was a neighbor and friend. We also hear about how Brooks and Wilder’s only argument was whether to include the tap dancing scene at the end of Young Frankenstein, and Brooks acquiesced because Wilder fought for it.

Wilder is my second favorite actor of all time, after Daniel Day Lewis, and I relished the opportunity to learn more about him.

“I hope people will see his great commitment to comedy in giving his all in every role,” Frank said.

The film includes some great clips from See No Evil, Hear No Evil, in which Wilder played a deaf man and Pryor played a blind man. It seems the two were not great friends off camera, though Frank said Pryor did visit Wilder when he was in poor health from Alzheimer’s disease. Wilder’s last wife, Karen, appears in the film and talks about how he decided to take a last swim and was able to do so. She reveals what his last words were.

Wilder is one of the greatest comedic geniuses of this era, and it is a shame he couldn’t have done more films with Brooks. Wilder died on August 29, 2016. Some will clamor for personal gossip, but I don’t need that here. Remembering Gene Wilder is a fitting tribute to a versatile comedic actor who is one of the few to make me laugh out loud.

The author is a writer based in New York.

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OCAD University student is seeking $1M in damages—alleging a lack of protection from threats and abuse

Samantha Kline, 22, presented photos of antisemitic graffiti she says targeted her.

The post OCAD University student is seeking $1M in damages—alleging a lack of protection from threats and abuse appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Palestinian Islamic Jihad Releases New Propaganda Video of Israeli Hostage

Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov as seen in a propaganda video released by Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Photo: Screenshot

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group on Tuesday released a short propaganda video featuring Israeli hostage Alexander (Sasha) Trufanov, 28, who was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists during Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

The 30-second undated video shows Trufanov, an Amazon employee, identifying himself and saying that he will soon discuss what has happened to him and other hostages in Gaza.

Similar videos have been released by terrorists groups in Gaza. Israel has lambasted them as psychological warfare.

Trufanov’s mother said in a video released by the family that she was happy to see her son after all this time, but “it was heartbreaking” that he had been a hostage for so long.

Trufanov was an engineer at the Israeli microelectronics company Annapurna Labs, which Amazon owns.

Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists abducted over 250 people during their Oct. 7 onslaught. Trufanov was kidnapped alongside his mother, grandmother, and girlfriend.

All three were released as part of a temporary ceasefire agreement negotiated in November. His father, Vitaly Trufanov, was one of the 1,200 people killed during the Hamas massacre.

“The proof of life from Alexsander (Sasha) Trufanov is additional evidence that the Israeli government must give a significant mandate to the negotiating team,” the Hostages Families Forum, which represents the families of the hostages, said in a statement.

More than 120 hostages remain in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas. Islamic Jihad is a separate but allied terrorist organization in the Palestinian enclave. Both are backed by Iran, which provides them with money, weapons, and training.

Negotiations brokered by Qatar, Egypt, and the US to reach a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza have been stalled for weeks.

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Gal Gadot’s Action Movie Nabs Second Place on Netflix List of Most Watched Films in Second Half of 2023

Gal Gadot as Rachel Stone in a scene from the trailer for “Heart of Stone.” Photo: YouTube screenshot

Netflix released its engagement report that details the films with the most views from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2023, and Israeli actress Gal Gadot’s action thriller Heart of Stone secured the number two spot with 109.6 million views.

The film — starring Gadot alongside Jamie Dornan and Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt in leading roles — was the runner-up to Leave the World Behind, the drama starring Julia Roberts, Mahershala Ali, and Ethan Hawke that garnered 121 million views on Netflix.

Heart of Stone, directed by Tom Harper, was released on the streaming giant on Aug. 11 of last year. The action film is about international intelligence operative Rachel Stone, played by Gadot, who goes on a mission to protect an artificial intelligence system, known as The Heart, from falling in the wrong hands. The film was produced by Pilot Wave, a company founded by Gadot and her husband Jaron Varsano.

Gadot also stars in Netflix’s most popular film of all time, Red Notice, alongside Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds.

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