Matthew Broderick spoke about his reverence for Gene Wilder and the tip the late actor gave him about screaming as he developed his own portrayal of Leo Bloom for the Broadway musical version of The Producers.
Wilder famously originated the nervous, blanket-carrying accountant in Mel Brooks’ 1967 film, and in an interview with the A.V. Club, Broderick admitted he could never fully make Bloom his own — nor did he want to (Broderick also played Bloom in the 2005 film version). “I can’t honestly hear any of those lines without hearing his readings of them,” Broderick said.
Among the jokes Broderick didn’t mess with were the “blue blanket” and the “I’m hysterical and I’m wet” fits Bloom throws after meeting the conniving producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel in the 1967 movie, Nathan Lane on Broadway). “There were many jokes that I just basically did exactly what he did,” Broderick said. “I hoped because I’m myself that it didn’t look like that, but I definitely was completely copying what I had seen because it was perfect.”
Brooks introduced the two Blooms once after a preview of the Broadway musical. “He was fairly emotional having seen that show, in a way,” Broderick said of Wilder. “He was very quiet. He was very very supportive, gave me a hug, and said, Gilda loved you.” Broderick was heartened by the reference to Wilder’s late wife, Gilda Radner, and said, “I sound like I’m bragging. I don’t mean to be. I just thought that was so sweet of him.”
Broderick also recalled the tip Wilder gave him about how to handle Bloom’s scream-heavy scenes: Chocolate, which Brooks reportedly fed Wilder on set to keep his energy up. “I had to do the play again the next night so I could never really go as crazy he did,” Broderick said, noting he would’ve never been able to match Wilder’s mania anyway. “He was a master of these hysterical types.”
Wilder died Monday from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease. He was 83.