The comedy world is in mourning after the death of Gene Wilder at the age of 83 from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease, with many sharing their memories of the comic genius—even charming ones where the legend rejected them.
James Corden opened Monday’s Late Late Show with a touching tribute to Wilder, calling him an influence not only on him, but on many others. He actually met Wilder once a few years ago after the Willy Wonka star had seen his play, and they shared a half-hour conversation afterward that largely touched on Corden’s family adjusting to New York.
But when Corden asked him to appear in the first episode of his talk show, which included a Golden Ticket-esque search for the next Late Late Show host, Wilder turned him down in what might be the world’s sweetest rejection note.
Wilder wrote, “I don’t do, or go, where you are hoping, but I’ll be looking for you, with my love, Gene.”
“Even that, even the way he said ‘no’ was so poetic,” said Corden. “But even his emails sounded somehow like Willy Wonka. And that, the truth of it isn’t that, he was just this magical person. And he made everybody around him feel this incredible feeling of joy.”