Trading Places Was Originally Written With Gene Wilder in Mind

Today the movie world mourns Gene Wilder, who died at the age of 83. He starred in many famous films — but could’ve been in beloved, Philly-set Trading Places, too.

Gene Wilder, if he were in Trading Places

Photo illustration

Today the movie world is mourning Gene Wilder, who died today at the age of 83. Wilder starred in a number of classic films, including several Mel Brooks films (Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and The Producers) as well as the 1971 adaptation Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

But Wilder could’ve been cast in a film that is near and dear to many Philadelphians’ hearts: Trading Places. Three years ago, Business Insider called the Philadelphia-set and shot film the greatest Wall Street movie ever made, and did an oral history of the movie.

Director John Landis had this nugget of info:

The script was developed for Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. And when I was sent the script, Richard Pryor, unfortunately, had his accident where he burnt himself rather badly, and they sent it to me and said, ‘What do you think?’

That’s right: In some alternate universe, Pryor didn’t light himself on fire and starred alongside Gene Wilder in Trading Places. The duo were a comedy team on screen throughout the late 1970s.

Things turned out well for Wilder, though. A different film developed by Wilder and Pryor turned into Hanky Panky, where Wilder met Gilda Radner, his partner on- and off-screen for the rest of the 1980s.

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