20 Things You Never Knew About Gene Wilder
Willy Wonka & Wilder's Demand
In 1971, Wilder auditioned for Willy Wonka in an adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He left early in the process but was tracked down by director Mel Stuart who offered him the role. Wilder said he would play the part on one condition: "When I make my first entrance, I'd like to come out of the door carrying a cane and then walk toward the crowd with a limp. After the crowd sees Willy Wonka is a cripple, they all whisper to themselves and then become deathly quiet. As I walk toward them, my cane sinks into one of the cobblestones I'm walking on and stands straight up, by itself... but I keep on walking, until I realize that I no longer have my cane. I start to fall forward, and just before I hit the ground, I do a beautiful forward somersault and bounce back up, to great applause." When Stuart asked Wilder why he wanted to do that, Wilder told him no one would be able to tell if Wonka is telling the truth for the rest of the film.