A World of Pure Imagination

We can recall, years ago, being grouped around the TV at some mind-altering hour and obsessively replaying Gene Wilder emerging from the Wonka castle as a hobbled old man. He gets his cane stuck in a brick, falling so far forward that you wonder at the insurance costs of the film, then turns a somersault so perfect it could raise the eyebrow of Bruce Lee. His stunning entrance — one that Wilder thought up and demanded be included — set the tone of Willy Wonka, as did his insane speech on the river of chocolate: "Are the fires of Hell a-glowing? Is the grisly reaper mowing?" he howled like a man piloting a boat full of serial murderers instead of adorable brats. With his "I'm not crazy — or am I?" attitude, he made the film into the cult favorite it is today, and in the years since it opened he has brought us so much more: Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles — he even managed to work himself into a comedy duo alongside the hottest man in '70s stand-up, Richard Pryor. With more than 20 other movies, plus recent turns as a novelist (notably with the excellently titled My French Whore), the 75-year-old actor gets a long-overdue pat on the back with SF Sketchfest Presents A Salute to Gene Wilder. The night features a screening of Young Frankenstein, followed by an onstage conversation with Wilder and moderator Paul Gilmartin and an audience Q&A. Wilder will also be signing copies of his latest novel, The Woman Who Wouldn't.
Wed., March 19, 6:30 p.m., 2008

 
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