gene-wilder-picture-9Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka

Actors are awarded politically. This is what makes predicting award shows fun, at least for me. Sometimes actors or actresses are honored based on the writer’s material in a scene, by the directors blocking or imagining of a situation, or even by the way flubbed lines are edited around or even how a performer is lit.

Film and TV acting differed greatly from stage acting in that regard, but it is still a challenging performance art. When Gene Wilder passed away I reminisced about his many great comedic performances. “Young Frankenstein,” “Blazing Saddles,” just to name a few. Then of course, a childhood favorite, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

When Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factor was released in the mid-2000s I really disliked it. There were many reasons, though I thought Depp’s excessive performance in the film paled in comparison to Wilder’s restrained performance.

Willy Wonka, a silly character with a silly name, was a role Wilder absolutely nailed. I hadn’t thought about why until his passing, but I believe it was that restraint.

Comedy is hard. Performance comedy, where timing is everything, is extraordinarily difficult. Depp’s Wonka was excessive, which isn’t bad, I just felt like Wilder’s restrained portrayal gave an added depth to a character which made the film’s conclusion all the more powerful.

Not just in the film though, Gene Wilder knew when to lay on the excess and when to lay off of it. He could play practical and looney all within the same character. He also did this in his many other films.