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Gene Wilder’s death after Alzheimer’s battle left Mel Brooks ‘inconsolable,’ filmmaker remembers

Mel Brooks is recalling the “sad” aftermath of good friend and late actor Gene Wilder’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis

In the new “Remembering Gene Wilder” documentary, Brooks opened up about his friendship with Wilder, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s circa 2010, and detailed the steps he had taken to help the “Willy Wonka” star with his memory. 

“I called him a lot thinking, ‘Maybe if I gave him enough references I could get him out of it,'” Brooks, who first met Wilder in the 1960s, said in the documentary, via People. “Insanity [on] my part. He was in the throes of that terrible disease. We could never talk too long after he got it. It was so sad, it made me cry a lot.”

GENE WILDER WANTED TO BE REMEMBERED MORE FOR ‘YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN’ THAN ‘WILLY WONKA,’ AUTHOR CLAIMS

A photo of Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks

Actor Gene Wilder and Writer/Composer Mel Brooks at the curtain call for Mel Brooks’ New Musical “Young Frankenstein” on Opening Night November 8, 2007, at the Hilton Theater in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic) (Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)

Wilder died in 2016 at the age of 83.

“I was inconsolable for a couple of weeks”, Brooks said, referencing the time after Wilder’s death. “When he lived his life he lived it, loud and eloquently. He was an outstanding actor and also an outstanding person.” 

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“I miss his enjoying my humor,” he added. “I could make him laugh where he would sometimes grab his belly, hit the ground and roll around on the ground and laugh. That’s the real payment in being a comic, and boy, he paid.” 

Actor Gene Wilder in character as Young Frankenstein

Gene Wilder wrote “Young Frankenstein” with Mel Brooks. He starred in the film while Brooks directed. (Getty Images)

In the documentary, Wilder’s widow, Karen Boyer, opened up about how her late husband’s withdrawal impacted her. 

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“He never really accepted that he had Alzheimer’s, and maybe by the time we found out that’s what it was, his hippocampus didn’t let him remember,” she said in the film. 

Gene Wilder and wife Karen Boyer smile at dinner

Gene Wilder and Karen Boyer married in 1991. (Getty Images)

“So I’m not sure that he ever knew. When I’d see him slip away further from me, I was sick to my stomach, but I had to keep smiling and tell him that everything was okay.” 

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Boyer added, “Gene was wonderful; he was the best husband I think anybody could ask for. To love and be loved is the best gift anybody could ask for, and we had that.”

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