Mel Brooks Recalls Trying to Help Gene Wilder with His Memory After Alzheimer's Diagnosis: 'It Was So Sad'

"I was inconsolable for a couple of weeks," Mel Brooks recalls of Gene Wilder's death at 83 in 2016

<p>Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic</p> Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks on Nov. 8, 2007

Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks on Nov. 8, 2007

Mel Brooks is recalling his reaction to learning his longtime friend and collaborator Gene Wilder was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Brooks, the legendary comedian and filmmaker, appears throughout the new documentary Remembering Gene Wilder, which celebrates the life and legacy of Wilder, who died at 83 in 2016.

Wilder and Brooks, 97, first met in the 1960s and embarked on a creative collaboration that included films like The Producers (1967), Blazing Saddles (1974) and Young Frankenstein (1974), among other movies. The pair remained friends throughout Wilder's life. In the documentary, Brooks recalls struggling to help Wilder with his memory after the two-time Academy Award nominee was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in the 2010s.

"I called him a lot thinking, 'Maybe if I gave him enough references I could get him out of it,' " Brooks shares in the documentary. "Insanity [on] my part. He was in the throughs of that terrible disease. We could never talk too long after he got it. It was so sad, it made me cry a lot."

Related: Mel Brooks Tears Up During 'Young Frankenstein' Tribute Screening to Gene Wilder: 'Probably the Finest Year of My Life'

<p>Kino Lorber</p> Remembering Gene Wilder poster

Kino Lorber

Remembering Gene Wilder poster

Wilder's widow Karen Boyer, one of a number of figures in Wilder's life interviewed in the new documentary, recalls in the film that she first noticed Wilder's memory loss when he would struggle to remember the name of movies like Young Frankenstein. When Wilder died in 2016, his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman shared in a statement that Wilder did not want to disclose his diagnosis publicly in order not to sadden his fans.

"I was inconsolable for a couple of weeks [after Wilder's death,]" Brooks recalls in the film. "When he lived his life he lived it, loud and eloquently. He was an outstanding actor and also an outstanding person." 

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"I miss his enjoying my humor — I could make him laugh where he would sometimes grab his belly, hit the ground and roll around on the ground and laugh," he adds. "That's the real payment in being a comic, and boy, he paid." 

Related: Mel Brooks' Life in Photos

<p>20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock </p> Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder on the set of 1974's Young Franksenstein

20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock

Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder on the set of 1974's Young Franksenstein

The documentary features interviews with Brooks, Boyer, Harry Connick Jr., Carol Kane, Alan Alda and film critic Ben Mankiewicz, among others. The film is aided by narration from Wilder himself via excerpts from his 2006 memoir Kiss Me Like a Stranger and covers his upbringing in Wisconsin, career, collaborations with Brooks and romances with Boyer and Gilda Radner, his third wife.

Remembering Gene Wilder is playing in theaters.

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