The Producers (1968) Selected by Olly Richards, contributor
When Matthew Broderick played Leo Bloom in the Broadway version of The Producers, he received a visit from the man who originated the role. Gene Wilder, the proto-bloom, had one tip: chocolate. It takes a lot of energy to remain as emotionally cacophonous as Bloom, and he had been constantly plied with sweets by his director, Mel Brooks, so as not to keel over.
One can see why. Throughout the movie Bloom is a nervous wreck, a meek accountant terrified at the possible fall-out of deliberately making a terrible Hitler-centric musical. His rarely suppressed terror explodes every which way in perhaps Wilder’s best-ever scene. When the extent of their lies is revealed by his business partner, Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel), Bloom becomes, in his words, “hysterical”. As Bialystock tries to calm him down, this is compounded by being drenched in water and smacked around the face. “I’m hysterical and I’m wet! I’m in pain! And I’m wet! And I’m still hysterical!” he wails. It’s a meltdown of majestic proportions.
Yet when you watch it more closely, you can see how carefully Wilder orchestrates his hissy fit. It’s not all explosion. The fire dies and swells. Bloom screams then gathers himself, suffering a series of aftershocks. Wilder knew that loudness was not funny in itself. When he asks Bialystock not to hit him, it’s distractedly muttered, like he’s winding himself back up, ready to whizz off again. Wilder was the king of losing his rag — a moment you’d wait for in every film — and in The Producers he achieved an unimprovable tantrum. He was the perfect storm.