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Wonka Meets Spock
Last night we were among the fortunate attendees at the sold-out Writers Block event featuring Leonard Nimoy interviewing Gene Wilder, a strange but wonderful wrinkle in the pop culture universe. Nimoy, who directed Wilder in 1990's Funny About Love, got Wilder to tell some great stories, a few of which are in his new memoir Kiss Me Like a Stranger. Our favorite: Gene Wilder got the script for Willy Wonka and told the director he'd do the film, but only if they made some changes to his entering scene. What Wilder wanted: to come out using a cane, hobbling, bringing a terrible hush over the crowd. Then you would hear the murmur of "a cripple!" and then, the cane catches and he topples — but somersaults! He leaps up! He's not lame at all! The director asked if that was the only thing he needed to say yes, and Wilder said it was, so it was in. Why, the director wanted to know. "So after that they would never know when I was lying," Wilder said, creating a fabulous unreliable hero for kids desperate for a Disney antidote. But Wilder himself was sweet rather than sly, and we imagine that in real life he is a music maker. He is a dreamer of dreams.