Gene Wilder’s Last Words Have Finally Been Revealed

Gene Wilder, 1976
20th Century Fox Film Corp./Everett Collection

In a new documentary called Remembering Gene Wilder, Gene Wilder‘s widow recalls his final, loving words. Karen Boyer, who was married to Wilder from 1991 until his death in 2016, revealed in the documentary that his last words were “I love you.”

She shared, “The music was playing in the background — Ella Fitzgerald was singing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow,’ and I was lying next to him, and he sat up in bed, and he said, ‘I trust you.’ And then he said, ‘I love you.’ That’s the last thing he said.” Wilder died at the age of 83 from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

Karen Wilder and Gene Wilder

Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Boyer admitted that the first signs of his Alzheimer’s disease were struggles with his memory. She said he couldn’t remember the title of his film Young Frankenstein, which she said was his favorite. She revealed, “He never really accepted that he had Alzheimer’s, and maybe by the time we found out that’s what it was, his hippocampus didn’t let him remember. So I’m not sure that he ever knew. When I’d see him slip away further from me, I was sick to my stomach, but I had to keep smiling and tell him that everything was okay. Gene was wonderful; he was the best husband I think anybody could ask for. To love and be loved is the best gift anybody could ask for, and we had that.”

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Gene Wilder, 1971

Everett Collection

Prior to his marriage to Boyer, he was married three times, most notably to Saturday Night Live cast member Gilda Radner, until her death in 1989. He met Boyer in 1989 when she was a clinical supervisor for the New York League for the Hard of Hearing. She helped him prepare for his role as a deaf man in the film See No Evil, Hear No Evil. After Radner passed away, Wilder and Boyer reconnected and wed several years later.

Brian Scott Mednick, who published a biography about Wilder said that he once called Karen “the great love of his life.” He explained, “It was his fourth marriage and the longest; he died shortly before their 25th wedding anniversary. Gene admitted he was very unhappy for a long time with Gilda. He didn’t think he’d get married again, and he said he didn’t believe in fate. And he nearly cried when telling an interviewer how passionate his love for Karen was. He said he always felt you make your life and then call it fate, but Karen made him believe in fate. Like any marriage, it wasn’t without its problems, but it was a very strong, loving marriage. He just idolized her.”

The documentary will be available on VOD starting April 30.


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