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Gene Wilder On His 'Sexual' Chemistry with Richard Pryor

Gene Wilder On His 'Sexual' Chemistry with Richard Pryor

Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor were teamed in 4 movie comedies together beginning with the massive box office hit 'Silver Streak' in 1976. That was followed by another smash, 'Stir Crazy,' directed by Sidney Poitier in 1980.

While filming 'Stir Crazy,' Pryor began showing up late and arriving high. The cast and crew were at his mercy, forced by practicality to remain unfazed by the comic's erratic behavior. In an unaired interview recorded on the set of 'Stir Crazy,' an intoxicated Pryor declares this about his co-star: "Gene Wilder ain't s**t, he's a f****t." Whether he actually meant that or not is unclear.

After Pryor's notorious freebasing accident, the next Pryor / Wilder picture had to be recast. That's how Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd landed the lead roles in another huge hit, 'Trading Places.' Can you imagine any other actors in those roles? Murphy and Ackroyd were sheer perfection.

Pryor and Wilder had professional relationship alone as Wilder once said, "You could count on one hand the times that we saw each other when we weren't working, and even then there was always a work-related reason why we met."

Wilder and Pryor re-teamed once more for the comedy dud 'Another You' in 1991. It was the final major motion picture for both actors.

On a 1991 episode of The Dick Cavett Show while filming 'Another You,' Gene Wilder talked about the chemistry between himself and his 4-time co-star. Wilder says, "He [Pryor] asked me once, when were finished with See No Evil Hear No Evil, 'Why us? What is this thing?' And I opened my mouth to try and answer and he said, 'Maybe it's better if we don't figure it out.' I've thought about it a few times. You want me to talk about it?

"Well, I think - I'm not making a joke, I want this to be funny but I'm not making a joke. I think it's sexual. I do. I think that when you meet someone, a guy meets a girl, and you get a little excited and something is happening between you and you don't want to muck it up by saying the wrong thing and acting silly. And you've got a date on Friday night and you see her walking down the street on Thursday and you avoid her. It's very much like that with Richard and me. We don't see each other. Now we do a little bit after all the times, all the troubles, all the things we've been through. But for 15 years we didn't see each other except on the day we were filming.

"I think it was to protect, in the way I'm using this analogy with the girl, to protect that nothing is going to go wrong in the relationship. We didn't ever talk about it. And if you say 'Well, what makes it work? What chemistry makes it work?' It's like um - I think we're both very shy. People don't know that Richard's shy. Anytime you meet a shy person it's just a mask for their aggression. We're both very aggressive. But, in our case, it comes out on the screen. With Richard, it either comes out on screen or he sets himself on fire, maybe he shows it that way."


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Gene Wilder in 2007 on Richard Pryor: "He said his first line, I said my first line and then this other line comes out of him... I had no idea where it came from, but I didn't question it, I just responded naturally – I didn't try to think of a clever line... I said what came naturally in the situation... then he went back to the script, then he came away, and everything we did together was like that."

 

 

 


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