Gene Wilder’s memoir, kiss me like a stranger, was an open and honest glimpse into his life. I’ve always loved Gene Wilder in everything I’ve seen him in (not much as I found out) and I was excited to read about him.
Growing up I first saw Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, which I was incredibly surprised to learn was considered a flop at the box office. It only earned $4,000,000, one million more than its budget. I also discovered that Wilder was a writer having many ideas turned into movies, most well-known to me being Young Frankenstein.
Reading about Gene Wilder’s stage days were particularly interesting because I hadn’t known about them. He auditioned for and became part of The Actors Studio, here he was mentored by Lee Strasburg. In those early days Gene had focused on being dramatic instead of playing to his comedic strengths, and Strasburg called him out on it, saying:
“I got news for you: If you don’t know how you’re going to act some part of the script–work on what you do know. Build up your confidence a little bit. That will help you find what you don’t know.”
I was struck by this statement. So often I focus on what I need to be doing and learning and working on that I forget to play to my strengths. I spend too much of my time and energy worrying about how I’m doing compared to others. My biggest competition is myself; as long as I’m doing better than I was yesterday that should count as a win.
I loved this book. The flow was easy and made me want to read way past my bedtime. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone, specifically theatre people and those interested in Gene Wilder.