This April, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will honor Gene Wilder with an entire night of programming headlined by ROLE MODEL: GENE WILDER, a new special in which the movie funnyman sits down with Alec Baldwin for an intimate conversation about Wilder’s extensive career. The tribute will feature two of Wilder’s most popular collaborations with writer-director Mel Brooks: The Producers (1968), which this year celebrates the 40th anniversary of its wide theatrical release, and Blazing Saddles (1974). ROLE MODEL: GENE WILDER comes to TCM from executive producer Robert Trachtenberg (The Dick Cavett Show with Special Guest Mel Brooks; Cary Grant: A Class Apart) and premieres on Tuesday, April 15, at 8 p.m. (ET).
“For four decades, movie funnyman Gene Wilder has been keeping audiences in stitches with his combination of over-the-top neurosis and sweet vulnerability,” said Tom Brown, vice president of original productions for TCM. “We are proud to be able to celebrate this outstanding actor, writer and director and are especially honored to have Alec Baldwin sit down with Wilder, his movie idol, for this intimate conversation.”
“I’m so grateful that Turner Classic Movies asked me to be a part of this project,” Baldwin said during the opening of ROLE MODEL: GENE WILDER. “I’m a big fan of the network, so I jumped at the chance when I was asked, ‘What movie star would you like to have a conversation with?’”
In ROLE MODEL: GENE WILDER, Wilder and Baldwin engage in a wide-ranging conversation at Waveny House in New Canaan, located in Wilder’s home state of Connecticut. Their talk touches on several important events in Wilder’s life, including the night he met Mel Brooks, who was then dating (and would later marry) Anne Bancroft, Wilder’s co-star in the stage production of Mother Courage; being kissed fully on the lips by renowned actor Zero Mostel just before auditioning for The Producers; getting to act opposite Lee J. Cobb in a television production of Death of a Salesman, a performance Wilder saw Cobb give when Wilder was 16; and working on his first screenplay, Young Frankenstein, which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Wilder also speaks about his love life, including his too-brief marriage to comedienne Gilda Radner (who died of ovarian cancer in 1989 and whose struggle Wilder chronicled in the book Gilda’s Disease); and his current, 16-year marriage to Karen Boyer.
Both Wilder and Baldwin also talk about acting on stage versus acting in film. Wilder prefers the latter. “The thing I love about making movies is the peace of mind that I know I don’t have to be perfect the first time,” Wilder said. “I can be perfect the second time or the third time.” Baldwin, on the other hand, prefers the stage, with the immediacy and intimacy that develops with a live audience.
Wilder, who is semi-retired from acting, also talks about what he’s doing now. Following last year’s extraordinary success of his widely praised romantic novel My French Whore, Wilder is hard at work on a new book.
After the premiere of ROLE MODEL: GENE WILDER, TCM will continue with The Producers, the now legendary comedy that earned Wilder an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, at 9:15 p.m. (ET). At 11 p.m. (ET), TCM presents Blazing Saddles, in which Wilder plays a role he took over from Gig Young. An encore presentation of ROLE MODEL: GENE WILDER follows at 1 a.m. (ET).