It’s been six years since Gene Wilder died, and another thirteen, before that, since he retired from acting, ending a long and storied career with an Emmy-winning guest performance on Will And Grace. (He spent the following years working primarily as a writer, before retiring more fully a few years before his death.) As the portrayer of one of the greatest children’s entertainment characters of all time—to say nothing of god knows how many other unforgettable performances over the decades—Wilder is an indelible part of the history of American cinema. Now his legacy is getting the documentary treatment, with a new film about his life in the works from doc-focused production company White Horse.
This is per Variety, which reports that filmmaker Chris Smith is set to tackle the task of bringing Wilder’s life to the screen, specifically through the perspective of the actor’s nephew, Jordan Walker-Pearlman. Walker-Pearlman, himself a filmmaker, was reportedly close with his uncle, visiting him on numerous film sets throughout his career. He’d apparently been approached on more than one occasion about making a documentary about Wilder, but always declined. “To trust other filmmakers with something as sacred to me as my relationship with Gene was not easy,” he said in a statement to Variety, “But working with Chris Smith, White Horse Pictures and Andy Trapani has been an incredibly organic experience.”
White Horse has had a fairly successful run of documentaries in recent years, including producing Ron Howard’s 2016 Beatles doc Eight Days A Week and Amy Poehler’s upcoming Lucy & Desi, which appeared at Sundance this year. White himself has been in the documentary (and docuseries) game for a minute; he served as a producer on both Tiger King and Fyre, both for Netflix, and served as director for Bad Vegan for the service, and 100 Foot Wave for HBO Max.
Wilder died in 2016; he was 83.