Film, Pop Culture

Dear Gene Wilder…


I wrote this last year on the Before I Die wall.

We never met, but like many fans, I felt like I knew you.

It’s a funny concept, isn’t it? The idea that millions of people around the world feel close to you simply because your job is to act onscreen.

I often wonder what it must be like for celebrities. Humbling? Annoying? At first humbling, then annoying?

For us fans, it’s often the highlight of our weeks, months or years.

There were few famous people I wanted to meet in this world, but you were one of them. Something about you felt familiar. Maybe it was because you were Jewish, and I’m Jewish, and though neither one of us practiced, it felt like an important part of who we are.

Or maybe it was the way you presented yourself onscreen. Though you could act manic, there was a softness to you, betrayed by your bright blue eyes. You had the ability to look as though you were about to burst into tears or hysterically laugh — we were never quite sure. Either way, our hearts opened up to both possibilities.

Or maybe it was your choice in movies, where you often played flawed protagonists on complicated journeys to fulfill your big dreams.

Or maybe assumed your grief when your young wife Gilda Radner tragically passed away from ovarian cancer.

I don’t know if you were as kind as you came across to be, but from all accounts I’ve read, it sounds like you were.

I wish I had an opportunity to meet you before you fell ill. I wish I could have told you that for this manic Jewish girl on a complicated journey to fulfill her big dreams, and who often wants to burst into tears or hysterically laugh, you were an inspiration.

(I originally wrote this for Medium.)

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