‘I Am Man’: Gene Wilder and His Most Memorable Quotes

Comic genius Gene Wilder has died at the age of 83. While illness kept Wilder out of the public eye and off-screen for years, his legacy was long ago cemented into future comedy canon to be revered by peers and viewers alike.

Wilder’s collaborations with famed director Mel Brooks in films like Blazing Saddles (1974), Young Frankenstein (1974), and The Producers (1968) — the latter earning Wilder a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the 41st Academy Awards — drew critical acclaim.

 

But he might be best remembered as the wild and irreverent chocolate czar from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in 1971. Wilder and fellow comedic legend Richard Pryor would work together in several comedies over the course of 15 years; Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), and Another You (1991).

Following his retirement from acting in 2003, Wilder turned his creativity toward writing, penning his memoir — Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art — in 2005. Several novels followed: My French Whore (2007), The Woman Who Wouldn’t (2008) and Something to Remember You By (2013), along with What Is This Thing Called Love?, a book of short stories published in 2010.

A life of comedy and writing as esteemed as Wilder’s will leave any list of memorable quotes lacking, as “we have so much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it. Thank you.”

Thank you, Gene Wilder.

 

Gilda Radner, left, and Gene Wilder are shown in a scene from the film "Hanky Panky," directed by Sidney Poitier, Aug. 27, 1981. (AP Photo/Bill Polo)

Gilda Radner, left, and Gene Wilder are shown in a scene from the film “Hanky Panky,” directed by Sidney Poitier, Aug. 27, 1981. (AP Photo/Bill Polo)

“We are the music makers. And we are the dreamers of dreams.” – Willy Wonka, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

 

Actor Gene Wilder is shown during an interview with Jean Claude Bouis at his New York City Hotel, Dec. 9, 1977. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Actor Gene Wilder is shown during an interview with Jean Claude Bouis at his New York City Hotel, Dec. 9, 1977. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

“But Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted… He lived happily ever after.” – Willy Wonka, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

 

Actor Gene Wilder is shown at NBC studios, June 26, 1979, New York. Wilder had just appeared on the “Today” show to promote his Warner’s Bros. film, “The Frisco Kid.” (AP Photo/Dave Pickoff)

Actor Gene Wilder is shown at NBC studios, June 26, 1979, New York. Wilder had just appeared on the “Today” show to promote his Warner’s Bros. film, “The Frisco Kid.” (AP Photo/Dave Pickoff)

“If the good lord intended us to walk, he never would’ve invented roller skates.” – Willy Wonka, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

 

American comic actor Gene Wilder, originally Jerry Silkman stars with nightclub comedian Richard Pryor in the action comedy 'Silver Streak'. Directed by Arthur Hiller, the film was chosen for the 31st Royal Film Festival. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

American comic actor Gene Wilder, originally Jerry Silkman stars with nightclub comedian Richard Pryor in the action comedy ‘Silver Streak’. Directed by Arthur Hiller, the film was chosen for the 31st Royal Film Festival. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“Time is a precious thing. Never waste it.” – Willy Wonka, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

 

Actor Gene Wilder, left, gets a kiss from co-star Joan Severance during a premiere benefit for their new movie “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” Wednesday, May 11, 1989, New York. The benefit was held for the New York League for the Hard of Hearing. (AP Photo/Ron Frehm)

Actor Gene Wilder, left, gets a kiss from co-star Joan Severance during a premiere benefit for their new movie “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” Wednesday, May 11, 1989, New York. The benefit was held for the New York League for the Hard of Hearing. (AP Photo/Ron Frehm)

“Invention, my dear friends, is 93 percent perspiration, 6 percent electricity, 4 percent evaporation and 2 percent butterscotch ripple.” – Willy Wonka, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

 

Actor Gene Wilder is shown at NBC studios, June 26, 1979, New York. Wilder had just appeared on the “Today” show to promote his Warner’s Bros. film, “The Frisco Kid.” (AP Photo/Dave Pickoff)

Actor Gene Wilder is shown at NBC studios, June 26, 1979, New York. Wilder had just appeared on the “Today” show to promote his Warner’s Bros. film, “The Frisco Kid.” (AP Photo/Dave Pickoff)

“The snozzberries taste like snozzberries!” – Willy Wonka, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

 

LONDON - JUNE 06: Actors Gene Wilder (R) and John Gordon Sinclair pose on the steps of The Producers' theatrical home, the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, on June 6, 2005 in London, England. The stars play/ed the role of the current and former Leo Bloom, with Wilder starring in the 1968 film version and Sinclair presently on the West End stage acting the same role. (Photo by MJ Kim/Getty Images)

LONDON – JUNE 06: Actors Gene Wilder (R) and John Gordon Sinclair pose on the steps of The Producers’ theatrical home, the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, on June 6, 2005 in London, England. The stars play/ed the role of the current and former Leo Bloom, with Wilder starring in the 1968 film version and Sinclair presently on the West End stage acting the same role. (Photo by MJ Kim/Getty Images)

“I’m not going to the toilet, I’m going to showbiz!” – Leo Bloom, The Producers

 

Actor Gene Wilder is shown during an interview with Jean Claude Bouis at his New York City Hotel, Dec. 9, 1977. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Actor Gene Wilder is shown during an interview with Jean Claude Bouis at his New York City Hotel, Dec. 9, 1977. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

“I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille.” -Jim, Blazing Saddles

 

Actor Gene Wilder is shown at NBC studios, June 26, 1979, New York. Wilder had just appeared on the “Today” show to promote his Warner’s Bros. film, “The Frisco Kid.” (AP Photo/Dave Pickoff)

Actor Gene Wilder is shown at NBC studios, June 26, 1979, New York. Wilder had just appeared on the “Today” show to promote his Warner’s Bros. film, “The Frisco Kid.” (AP Photo/Dave Pickoff)

“Oh no, don’t do that, don’t do that. If you shoot him, you’ll just make him mad.” -Jim, Blazing Saddles

 

ap 8905110394 I Am Man: Gene Wilder and His Most Memorable Quotes

Actor Gene Wilder, left, gets a kiss from co-star Joan Severance during a premiere benefit for their new movie “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” Wednesday, May 11, 1989, New York. The benefit was held for the New York League for the Hard of Hearing. (AP Photo/Ron Frehm)

“From the very first day when filthy bits of slime crawled out of the sea and called to the stars ‘I am man,’ our greatest dread has always been the knowledge of our mortality. But tonight, we will hurl the gauntlet of science into the frightful face of death itself. Tonight, we shall ascend into the heavens! We shall mock the earthquake! We shall command the thunders and PENETRATE THE VERY WOMB OF IMPERVIOUS NATURE HERSELF!” – Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Young Frankenstein

 

Gene Wilder is shown in character as he films Tri Star Pictures’ “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” with Richard Pryor in 1989. (AP Photo)

Gene Wilder is shown in character as he films Tri Star Pictures’ “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” with Richard Pryor in 1989. (AP Photo)

“I never thought of it as God. I didn’t know what to call it. I don’t believe in devils, but demons I do because everyone at one time or another has some kind of a demon, even if you call it by another name, that drives them.” – Gene Wilder

 

Actor Gene Wilder is shown at NBC studios, June 26, 1979, New York. Wilder had just appeared on the “Today” show to promote his Warner’s Bros. film, “The Frisco Kid.” (AP Photo/Dave Pickoff)

Actor Gene Wilder is shown at NBC studios, June 26, 1979, New York. Wilder had just appeared on the “Today” show to promote his Warner’s Bros. film, “The Frisco Kid.” (AP Photo/Dave Pickoff)

“If you’re not gonna tell the truth, then why start talking?” – Gene Wilder

 

Lee Meredith, upper right, and Kenneth Mars, upper left with Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel in a scene from the movie "The Producers" July 1967. (AP Photo)

Lee Meredith, upper right, and Kenneth Mars, upper left with Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel in a scene from the movie “The Producers” July 1967. (AP Photo)

“That’s all I wanted: for someone to look at me and listen to me, but in some beautiful and artistic way.” – Gene Wilder

 

Actor Gene Wilder looks thoughtful during an interview during which he talked about his view of comedy in general and his new film, “The World’s Greatest Lover,” in particular, Dec. 27, 1977, New York. The film is Truly Wilder’s creation: in addition to starring in the picture, he also wrote, produced and directed it. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Actor Gene Wilder looks thoughtful during an interview during which he talked about his view of comedy in general and his new film, “The World’s Greatest Lover,” in particular, Dec. 27, 1977, New York. The film is Truly Wilder’s creation: in addition to starring in the picture, he also wrote, produced and directed it. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

“On stage or in the movies I could do whatever I wanted to. I was free.” – Gene Wilder

 

Actor Gene Wilder is shown in December 1980. (AP Photo)

Actor Gene Wilder is shown in December 1980. (AP Photo)

“I’m funny on camera sometimes. In life, once in a while. Once in a while.” – Gene Wilder

See Also: Celebrities and Performers Pay Their Respects to Gene Wilder

 

–E.J. Judge/WCBS-FM

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