[Mel Brooks was ready to cast Gig Young in the comic western ‘Blazing Saddles,’ until, in the first scene where he was to direct him, the Oscar-winning actor began to spew green vomit. Brooks’ subsequent question—‘Wait a minute, did we sign on to direct ‘The Exorcist?’”—led Young’s agents to acknowledge that their client was a recovering alcoholic. Fearing the film faced disaster because of this miscasting of a key role, Brooks phoned Gene Wilder, whom he had worked with on ‘The Producers.’]
“I was crying and Gene was my best friend. And I told him and he said, ‘I’ll do it for you.’ And he got on a plane and he came out Sunday. On Monday morning, he was in the jail cell and Cleavon [Little, playing the black sheriff] said, ‘Are we awake?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know. Are we black?’ And boom. That was Gene Wilder … It was so lucky. That’s called a good bounce. A good bounce.”—Mel Brooks quoted in Virginia Rohan, “Mel Brooks Tells the Stories Behind 'Blazing Saddles,'” The Record (Bergen County, NJ), Aug. 23, 2016
R.I.P. Gene Wilder (1933-2016): actor, screenwriter, director, novelist, and, as seen in this tale from Brooks, a good friend.