Carol Kane may now be known as a comedic force — just look at her current role as the eccentric landlord Lillian on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt — but in the 1970s, she was a 23-year-old actress who’d really only been in dramas. She had earned a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her role in Hester Street, but she didn’t have any other projects on the horizon — until Gene Wilder called.
“Out of the blue I got a call from Gene saying that he’d like to meet me about The World’s Greatest Lover,” Kane told the Associated Press on Monday. “[It] was a comedy, which I’d never done before. I have no idea why he thought I could do it, but he was a purist, he was kind of a poet, and I met him and he asked me to do this movie with him.”
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Wilder wrote, directed, and starred in The World’s Greatest Lover, a 1977 comedy about a baker (Wilder) who dreams of becoming a silent film star. Kane played his wife, and after news broke that Wilder died Sunday at the age of 83, she reflected on working with the director who gave her “a second chance.”
“(He was) clearly one of the great clowns — the Chaplin of talkies in some ways,” she said.
The World’s Greatest Lover was never as well-received as some of Wilder’s biggest hits, but Kane added that “it’s lovely and funny and worth a second look.” And, it was the movie that introduced her to Wilder, who she says she stayed in touch with long after The World’s Greatest Lover hit theaters.
“He was a gentle man and a gentleman… a true, true artist,” Kane added. “We never saw anyone like him before or after.”